We’ve previously looked into re-visioning and self-editing, and today the focus is on feedback. Especially your critique group’s feedback. I know. Kind words from family and friends are nice, but to get to the meat of issues, to develop your skills as a writer, you should have feedback from those that can provide honest critiques.
Catching the idea
Evaluating the idea
Growing the idea
Reading the draft
Re-vision and self-editing
Critique group feedback
Rewriting or recreating
<<GO TO Critique group feedback, if needed>>
One of your motivations of belonging to a critique group is to improve your writing skills and knowledge. You can also get a more objective assessment of your writing than you can provide yourself or from family or friends. I don’t know a single writer who is capable of being objective about his or her own writing.
Some aspects of the feedback you receive can be as painful as reading a rejection. Keep in mind the reasons you’ve asked for feedback. You want your writing to be as good as you can possibly make it. Every piece of feedback might be a chance to make your story work better. Honest feedback is a gift.
Don’t just focus on what people said needs to be fixed. Look at what they liked about your writing. Can you find ways to do MORE of this?
What’s your plan for evaluating the feedback you’ve received?
You’ll receive at least two kinds of feedback (all gifts!). What you will use to improve your story and what you will decide to ignore. (A third might be feedback that is too general to be useful, such as “I loved this passage.”) Remember that feedback is subjective in general and different readers will point out different things. Not all of this will end up being helpful to you.
Look for patterns in the types of feedback you’re getting. Do most people love your dialog but say your description is slowing the pace? Did more than one person point out plot inconsistencies? Try to groups the comments together and see where the largest issues are located.
Read over all your feedback. Mark what immediately makes sense for you to “fix.” Many times this will be in the form of fixing typos, grammar, punctuation, etc.
Thank the readers who provided you feedback. Do NOT say anything else, except to clarify something that you didn’t understand.
Feeling defensive at times is NATURAL. Recognize what you’re feeling and ask yourself: Why am I feeling like this? (And remember that the reader is NOT deciding what you will be fixing. That’s your job. The reader’s feedback is a GIFT.)
Wait a few days, a week even, before reading over the feedback again.
Put your ego aside. Yes, we all have one! Repeat to yourself: Feedback is a gift.
Revisit the feedback. Do you see patterns? Maybe four out of six people pointed out things with your dialog. Put these items in a dialog category. Maybe three of them said the description slowed the pace too much in a scene and could be better woven into the story.
Maybe five readers loved your protagonist and how she had obvious goals and conflicts. Use this to your advantage. Can you say the same about the other characters?
If you don’t understand something a reader has provided, ASK.
Maybe on reader questioned some action of your protagonist or antagonist, saying this seemed out of character. If this doesn’t ring true for you, put the item in the “gifts not used” category.
Even if only one reader mentions a certain thing ask yourself: Is this useful to my story? Let your instinct guide you in making a decision.
For each item ask yourself:
Does this make sense to me?
Why or why not?
Is there something I’m missing? (Try to read beyond what the feedback is saying. Is there some basic craft element that could be improved at a deeper level?)
What’s the root cause behind the feedback items? (Especially on points that contradict each other. Is there anything at all these have in common?)
Is this part of a larger pattern?
If so, what can these patterns show you about your writing?
How can these patterns help you more effectively assess your story?
Look at the feedback you’ve received as objectively as possible. If you have problems with this: How might you make yourself less sensitive? What’s behind your sensitivity?
Each time you move an item to the “gifts not used” category, ask yourself: Why did you make that decision? If you can’t give a response that makes sense to you, re-evaluate the feedback to see if you can find anything useful.
Planning for Revision
Once you’ve reviewed all your feedback and organized it in some way, think about and plan how you might go about your revision. Will you do one pass or several?
Write out your plan, including goals for how much time you’ll want to spend on your revision. Start with high level goals and for each include smaller goals. (These goals should be something that is realistic, achievable, and include some indication so you will know when the goal is achieved.)
You are the author of your story. You have the final word on what is changed and how. Your responsibility is to carefully review the feedback that is offered and make a decision on using it or not.
Final words: Never loose sight that feedback is a gift.
Question for today: How do you analysis feedback you receive in order to make that “do I use this or not” decision?