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22 September 2010


And Receiving Feedback
Most writers seek feedback on their writing. Certainly if you are hoping for publication, the biggest feedback you can have is the number of books sold. But this is equally true of articles, short stories and even flash fiction. Having your work read by other writers who can provide succinct and constructive critiques before submission could mean the difference between the slush pile and the coveted letter of acceptance. 
But many of us (and I'm talking from a personal perspective here)sometimes find it difficult to accept some of the feedback. I suppose it depends on the way things are going, writing or life wise, but sometimes a comment, meant to help, throws you into a fit of the wobblies and a dip in your confidence as a writer. This is, I would imagine, the same for anyone receiving feedback on their performance. I recall the dreaded day of appraisals when working in the real world, with managers who wouldn't know the meaning of constructive feedback if they fell over it! But if we want to develop ourselves as writers, we need to continue to seek and respond to feedback in a way that benefits our writing. We then may move from being a pedestrian writer to growing into our own writing style and being recognised as such. 

Since creating Writers Abroad, a writing community for Ex-pat writers I have grown a thousand fold in terms of my writing. And I will keep repeating this claim because the feedback I have received has resulted in being my work being short listed and published. And it's not just me, other members too. I must say that I am far more gracious with my fellow writers comments as they understand what it feels like, the scrutiny, rather like an audition for a movie but in virtual terms. They understand the hard work; the occupation of your world by characters that may need to be ditched; that perfect description which 'tells' instead of 'shows'; the scene which although funny, adds nothing to the story and has to go. So although their feedback is honest and direct, it is countered with suggestions, thoughts and lots of  nitpicks which I happily go along with (though I probably need prodding about cutting that scene).
So for what its worth, here is my advice for taking it on the nose in terms of feedback on your writing...

  • Accept that it is normal you are going to feel emotional about parts of your story. Having read the feedback, put it aside for a few days and let it stew. You will see the sense.
  • Keep an open mind about characters, scenes and settings. Listen to the feedback, see it through a readers eye.
  • Try out the suggestions and see for yourself. Never delete your first drafts, you can always go back if you feel it doesn't really work.
  • Put the feedback into practice with your other work. Writing critiques can often pick up on areas that you may be weak on. Use it to develop your craft.
  • Accept that feedback is part of your personal development as a writer. For me it is far more valuable than attending a course or reading a 'how to' book. 
So don't banish your writing ego, it's the part which makes you the writer you are. But no ego is perfect and that goes for its writing too.

Don't Think Just Write


Rob Innis said...

Yes some good points made - I think time and experience (ie after some success and publications) means the feedback is easier to take. It can be strange as well - I received some positive feedback the other day on a piece that was really just a 'filler' and then a great piece goes without a murmur of feedback. Such is a writer's life....

Louise Charles said...

Thanks Rob,I think you are right. I value any kind of feedback as long as it is constructive. I think the problem is we expect editors to be experts in constructive criticism but very often they are not and sometimes I think that can destroy a writer 'in waiting' and their confidence.