decorative art

So, you have presented your manuscript to your writers’ group or asked beta readers for their opinions and had your turn receiving feedback. Now it’s time to give your own feedback to someone else. What is the best way to give feedback to another author? Being a troll is one way that will get you attention as a beta reader, and also on a large number of blocked lists, so it probably isn’t the way to go about it.

Let’s be serious though, giving your own personal criticism on someone else’s work is something that is learned, that requires careful consideration and analysis of another’s work and effectively giving feedback to an author. Giving criticism is a skill, and sharpening your ability to give effective feedback an author can work with can and will take time. Your feedback in a literal sense should make an author’s work look like a construction site and not like a tornado through a trailer park.

How to give feedback…

In writers group or a shared google document can be a great avenue to give effective feedback. As I stated in the, “how to handle criticism” blog last time, the work of assessing is done with a critical eye and takes time. Other members of your group will be looking over the same piece of work and making their own markups and assessments on what is happening. Reading the work of others who are making the same critical assessment of someone’s work can be a valuable tool in assisting you with giving your effective feedback. You are looking for key problems in a work, and as a bonus, you can apply these to your own writing during edits.

A critique is not an opportunity to put another author down. If you don’t like the work, you have the option not to read it and put it down. Someone’s writing may not be for everyone, and you may be that one person who it doesn’t click with. You do have the opportunity to say: “this is not for me.”

Critiques are not personal

Another thing to remember is criticism is not personal, and personal insults in a critique will probably lead to an author:

1. refusing to go over any more of your feedback even if you have valid points that could help their story,

2. probably never wanting anything to do with you again.

Impersonal comments and feedback keep the focus on the work being critiqued allowing the author to focus on the critical feedback you have given without the fear of personal attacks to distract them away from potential recommendations or fixes that could really help.

If you are a sadist, tearing someone down may be a lot of fun, but as I said last time, what goes on the internet stays on the internet and your reputation will follow you.

Focus on improving the other writer’s piece

The next area of focus is what you as the one giving critique personally does or doesn’t like. Do you have a personal problem with a bus stop or grocery store? An author doesn’t need a half page write up on everything wrong with a bus stop or grocery store, this adds no value to the work being critiqued and can detract away from real problems such as a scene that is crude, vulgar, or non-contextual for shock value only. The critique should be about why a scene isn’t being pushed forward or the fast-paced action of the scene has evaporated, and not about the your likes or dislikes about the setting.

As a critic you should also be sure you’re comfortable with the content and that it aligns with your own personal tastes before you agree to critique, as you may have clashes/triggers with the author on what you believe should happen. Remember, this is their story, not yours, and it’s not your job to change a fantasy to a sci-fi. You want to help them build their story and give it the best chance it can possibly have to be successful. If it clashes with you, move on and give the author the opportunity to grow with critique better suited to what they are expecting. You are never going to go to a children’s book and expect a complex love story, or a space epic and expect mermaids. I’m not saying these can’t happen but it’s likely not to.

At the end of the day, you need to be the bigger person here and be the one to help the author grow; that is what you are doing. If you have problems with something there are far better things you could be doing with your time then badgering at the author about what is wrong and even tweeting about it, like learning a new skill, reading or listening to a book, picking up a new or old hobby, getting some fresh air to clear your head, or even writing your own story.

In conclusion

In closing, try to break down a story and look at what makes it work and use that to give your feedback. If you can identify what works, it makes looking at what doesn’t a lot easier. Break down a story into its strengths and weaknesses, in order to allow the author to decide how best to fix or mitigate the story’s flaws whilst preserving the things that makes it strong.

Constructive criticism should be given with grace and empathy and goes along with the saying, “Treat others as you yourself would want to be treated,” because if you haven’t had your turn at receiving feedback, you could be next.

Ok, Karen, Part Two! How to Give Feedback

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: