Wordsmith Wednesday–Giving and Receiving Feedback

Group Discussion

Image by jzawodn via Flickr

An important part of my writing experience and growth has been the process of giving and receiving critique. The first time my novel was accepted for work-shopping in a Writer’s Conference I was so sure I had passed a significant hurdle–if accepted, it must be that it was really good. Whoa, was I surprised! After that experience, I put the manuscript away and began think of an alternate plan for my second career. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to realize the value of honest feedback and I began the painstaking task of rewriting. When I revisit that initial draft I shudder to think I was oh-so-proud of it.

In this post I’d like to toss out some suggestions for giving and receiving feedback about your writing. Whether you participate in a Writing Critique Group, an Internet Forum, one-on-one sharing, working with a professional editor or workshopping through a University or Writer’s Conference, open yourself to enjoy…yes, enjoy the opportunity that such give-and-take provides.

In General:

  • Prepare yourself emotionally and mentally for the process of critique. Don’t go into a session expecting universal acclaim of your brilliance and form the intention to help your fellow writers.
  • Familiarize yourself with the process established by the group. If it includes pre-reading the work of other participants, be sure you have read and written comments on their submissions.
  • If required, have copies of your manuscript available for all participants.

Receiving Critique

  • Listen with an open mind to the comments of other members of the group.
  • Ask clarifying questions after the reviewer has completed their analysis.
  • Avoid becoming defensive. If requested, explain your point of view.
  • Take notes on all remarks.
  • Watch for similarities. If more than one member express the same idea, take a good, hard look at that suggestion.
  • Brainstorm with the members for solutions to problems with plot etc.
  • Do NOT make significant changes right away. However, go ahead and correct grammar and typos..
  • Remember that this is your work. You may be the only one who has the whole picture. Be careful about taking every suggestion to heart or you may lose your story or poem in the process.
  • Return the favor and give a well-thought-out review to other members of the group.

Giving Feedback

  • Preface the session with what you like most about the work.
  • Ask the author how they feel about their work, if they can identify strengths or areas needing improvement.
  • Be specific. Don’t just say, “This doesn’t work for me.” Give examples of where improvement is needed and how it can be accomplished. For example, “This would work better for me if, instead of telling me she feels scared, show me how it affects her using sensory detail.”
  • Give the author a chance to ask questions and/or to explain his point of view.

Now, for some discussion:

  • Do you participate in some sort of critique forum? What kind?
  • Does your group have any rules of engagement you would like to share?
  • Can you add suggestions to those I have outlined?
  • Do you have any anecdotes you would like to share about your experience with critique?

I hope you will join in with me helping your fellow writers and poets. Please leave your observations or suggestions in the comments section of this post. Happy Writing. Enjoy the process.