This week I’m going to talk about giving feedback to other writer’s.
When I first started to take my writing seriously the part I dreaded was being asked to give my thoughts about a piece of work. I found it even more daunting than giving my own work out for feedback.
Four years on and I still feel sick with the idea. How do you tell someone who has been putting every piece of themselves into their work only to tell them it’s not quite as good as they think?
I’ve been lucky as some of the work I’ve critiqued hasn’t been awful nor totally unfixable and I’ve enjoyed reading what I’ve been given.
What is the right way to give feedback?
Here are some things I remember when opportunity knocks:
1. Always start with what works.
Because it’s easier to hear the negatives when you start on a positive note. Do you like their writing style? Do you like a character in particular? Is the story flow good and interesting? If so, mention it. I tend to start with a positive comment, then add a negative, then something positive to follow.
2. Remember you are critiquing the work, and not the writer.
If a writer asks for feedback the least helpful thing to do is to point out their faults as an artist. Never mention the word ‘you.’ This can be seen as a personal attack sometimes which leads to a plunge in confidence. Always refer to the sentence, paragraph or prose. This way you can draw their attention to what’s important. The piece of work.
3. Read the piece of work carefully.
Well, it makes no sense to not do so. If your intentions are to help and be respectful of the work you’re viewing, then this is a no brainer. There’s nothing worse than receiving pointless feedback such as “I like this part,” or “This was really bad. I didn’t like it.” Give reasons as to why. What’s good about the part that you like? What’s so bad that it made you not like it?
4. Attempt to have fun even if it’s not what you like reading. Or decline to comment.
Something good always comes out of reading genres that I’m not a huge fan of. Sometimes I’ll learn something about the way the writer paces their story. Sometimes I find their writing style is interesting and I read on. If a piece of work is out of my league I tend to say thanks, but no thanks. Commenting on a genre that you like, but has problems is one thing. To comment on a piece of work that isn’t your thing is another. This has happened a couple of times when I’ve offered my work. I prefer that than to have someone who is totally clueless to the genre I’m writing in.
5. Always give an alternative if you can.
It helps both yourself and the writer of the piece. By identifying what could be better you’re learning what to look out for in your own work. If a word doesn’t quite fit offer up another that does. If a sentence doesn’t sound right write it the way you would. Try to apply this wherever you can.
If you follow these steps, then I’m sure you won’t have any trouble in giving feedback when that time comes.
Hope you are all well.
Oh, and Happy Easter!
Until next week,
With thanks to Thomas Martinsen for the image via Unsplash.com.