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 writing.com 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?