Thursday, April 5, 2012

F is for... Feedback

One of the most critical steps in a piece of writing's journey is getting feedback. By the time a writer has finished a piece, be it a short story, poem or novel, we know it so intimately it's impossible to see the flaws. To find out if it works, you need a fresh set of eyes on it.

But writing is a very personal thing. I always feel like I've opened my soul, naked and bleeding, onto every page. Letting anyone see that, get that close to me, is daunting.

It's important to find the right people to give you feedback. Your family and friends are fine if you want nothing but praise, but if you want real, helpful feedback that will force you to reassess and possibly rewrite your book, you need to go outside that safety net. But at the same time, you need to feel comfortable with the people you hand your baby off to.

Yeah. It's hard.

There are numerous websites for writers out there, and most of them have critique groups or forums in which writers can find readers for their work. Personally, I'm a member of and have two different critique groups there. I've made some fantastic friends in these groups, and my life - and my writing - has benefitted greatly as a result.

I've also found readers through bloghops and online contests. You often have to post a section of your MS for people to read and comment on, and I've been approached several times by people who liked my snippet and wanted to read more. Some of these people have become readers for me, and I've become a reader for them.

But the most important part of getting feedback is how you take it. Often it hurts. When someone tells you something you've worked hard on needs fixing, it's difficult not to get mad about it. I tend to go through all notes several times, over a number of days to get the most out of them. The first read-through is always the hardest and it's the one where I get indignant and scream at the screen. I don't do anything with the MS at that point, just read.

Then I leave it for a while and often find that certain comments ring true. Some don't, and those I ignore, but the ones that feel genuine, I go back to. Those are the changes I'll make, although often not in quite the way the critiquer might have expected.

Who do you go to for feedback? And how do you handle it?


  1. Feedback is my bane. I hate reading it. I know I can't improve without it. And 99% of the time when I get it, I tell myself "That's it, I quit, this story sucks."

    But like you, if I walk away for a little while, I can see the value in it. The feedback is also part of why I haven't quit yet.

    That doesn't stop me from reacting the same way the next time out ;-)

  2. Anytime I'm in a position to give advice to a new writer, one of the first things I say is "grow a set of thick skin." Feedback and critique is so important for a writer. Sharing your work with people you can trust for honest appraisal is not only a great way to improve, but it's one of the best ways to prepare for the daunting prospect of sending your work out into the wild to be judged by agents, editors, and eventually readers.

    I have a circle of writing friends whose opinions I trust, but one of my favorite online communities (absolute write) also has an area to share your work for critique.

    Nice post!

    J.W. Alden

  3. i listen to betas & cps and anyone else who will read! then apply what feels right for me =)

    feedback is essential!

  4. The blogs offering critique can definitely be helpful, but you really are a sacrificial lamb of sorts. Those bloggers don't know you, they don't care for your feelings, and it's easy to throw off zingy one liners about how awful and non-sensical someone else's pitch, query or first pages are.

    But if you find someone who will take the time read your work, whether it's a line edit or overall impressions, and you can dialogue with them about it - either face to face or over email, I think that works best. Having someone experienced in your genre helps. I received amazing feedback from someone I met online via blogs and I've since met her in person. We write differently but both in YA and both read a lot. My personal friend who's a writer doesn't read YA and some of the insight my critiquer gave, my friend who'd have missed b/c she doesn't know the genre.

    It always hurts at first but it does make us stronger. :)

  5. It's so hard to put yourself out there. I like what Stephsco said above, about how easy it is for some to throw off "zingy one liners". It's why I'm hesitant to join an online critique forum. I think it's a little harder to be dismissive and mean in your critique if you have to face the person.

    But if you can find a group that you can trust, getting feedback can be a wonderful thing (no matter how good or bad it is). It may sting, but think of it like the heat one uses to forge steel. Your piece will come out sharper and stronger.


  6. I'm so worried that I'll be crushed beyond repair if I receive bad feedback. :(