Ruth E. Walker.
Feedback from colleague writers can be a tremendous help to developing writers. Or it can put good manuscripts off the rails. How do you know comments received in a writing circle or workshop feedback session are useful?
Remember Ruth’s three basic rules of successful writing feedback:
Respect: Give it and get it. All feedback is an offered opinion. You are free to take it or leave it.
Encourage: Never intend to diminish another writer; always offer colleague-to-colleague comments .
Inspire: Go ahead and take risks with your writing but be prepared to hear what may need a second look.
Receiving feedback is an art
- respect an honest opinion by not defending your writing
- take notes of verbal comments
- all feedback is opinion; you may not agree but listen anyway (later on, you may realize that the opinion you dismissed is just what you needed to hear)
- all feedback is useful; see above and remember you are free to accept or gracefully decline offered feedback
- don’t interrupt; if you need to clarify what is said, make a note and wait for an appropriate spot to ask a question
- if feedback is offered in a group session, pay attention; others discussing their opinions about your submission can lead you to exciting discoveries and new ideas
Giving feedback in an art
- respect the risk a writer takes in asking for feedback; not everyone is ready for an intense critique so if you are unsure of how much to offer, ask the writer
- begin with one positive aspect before offering suggested areas to review
- avoid “I like” or “I didn’t like” as much as possible: this isn’t about “liking” something, it is about technique, clarity, logic, development of plot, setting, characters, etc.
- focus on words, phrases, rhythms, etc., that stand out – either in a good way, or in a way that doesn’t work; offer suggestions if you can
- be specific about interesting words or ideas and material that seems flat/stereotypical
- be professional; if you are uncomfortable with the subject, and it affects your ability to critique, it is okay to pass on making any comment