Friday, 9 April 2010

Writing Feedback Summary

So, what is good feedback? 

While gushing is nice to receive once and awhile, if you're asked to give feedback and all you're giving is praise, you're not being helpful.

Praise then raise. Tell the writer what you liked about the piece then raise the bar a bit higher. Be specific. Cut and paste examples.

Here are some things I like to receive as criticism:
  • How are the opening 3-5 sentences?
  • How is the dialogue?
  • Mechanics – Grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • Are the characters real to you or cookie-cutter?
  • Are there problems with my time line or plot?
Here's what you should not write:
  • Don't attack the writer! Writing is art. Writing is free speech. People can write about what they want * and if you don't like to read it, that's your right. I believe the concentration camps of WWII existed but not everyone does. That doesn't make the writer a Nazi. They may write about homosexuality, that doesn't make the writer gay. NO NAME CALLING ALLOWED!
  • Don't lie to the writer. If the writing is really bad, don't tell them that it's good. Be nice about it. Suggest they take a course on grammar or buy writing books. Explain a writing rule to them.

*The only exception I may make to the rule above (and as of yet, I've never come across this) is if a writer frequently (over many poems or stories) promotes terrorist ideologies, pedophilia, or violent hatred towards a person or group of people (because of religion, color, gender, or race), or if I feel he's crying out for help (suicide). I don't know what I'd do in that situation but I may ask them to get help. What would you do?

Here's a good quote from Toxic Feedback by Joni B Cole: 

Picture source: here


Jim Murdoch said...

One simple thing I was taught was to always say something positive before you say anything negative; it takes the sting out of it. And nothing is so bad that you can't say something good about it.

Natasha said...

Can I steal your poster? It is so true!
Great post too.

~ Rayna

Ann Elle Altman said...

Jim, yes. I like to give good before the bad. Makes them more receptive.

Rayna, it's not mine but you can have it.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

My rule is always sandwich criticism. Praise-criticism-praise.

Unknown said...

Hi Ann -
Doing reviews, criticism is such a fine balance. I was told it is best if its sandwiched between two positive elements? as L has just stated.

I truly struggle with this since I realize how hard writers work on their pieces/books...

Off topic ...

Playing catch up here, and setting up my new blog roll.(I will also be doing an author link up too - both including yourself)

I have just taken over a Challenge blog and would love to have you there - perhaps as a guest poster/ or just a reader/ or a challenge participant. It could use your perspective. :)

Laura S. said...

In college we learned to always provide positive comments along with constructive criticism. Oh, and I really like L. Diane's sandwich criticism technique!

I love that quote; it's so true! Definitely something to remember the next time I think my WIP is rubbish. Rubbish writing is just good writing waiting to be cleaned!

Bisi Adjapon said...

I couldn't agree more!


Devon Ellington said...

One thing that I believe is important is that, when you critique, you try to support the writer's vision, and explore the ways to bring that through clearly. Don't rewrite passages the way YOU would write them. Ask questions, find ways to make the writer dig deeper.

As far as critique on my own work, I always consider the source -- is this someone with my best interests at heart, or is there another agenda? I have trusted readers for feedback -- I never just toss something out for comments.

Amy Saia said...

Great post! I literally can't give harsh critiques. I will only point out technical errors and leave it at that.

Ann Elle Altman said...

L. Diane Wolfe, that's a great rule.

Shellie, thanks for the comment and the blog roll add. I will check out the link and will help in any way I can.

Laura, thanks. And you're right, no writing is perfect before editing.

Bisi, thanks for stopping by and your comment.

Devon, great words. You have to let the writer keep his voice. Not everyone will write the same.

Amy, I'm sure that is still helpful to the writer.

Thanks for your comments.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks for covering this topic! It's amazing to me how critical people can be...instead of being constructive!


Kimberly Franklin said...

Great post! I couldn't agree with you more. :)

Have a great weekend!!

Anonymous said...

Ann - What a terrific post! Thank you! I think my favorite part of it is that writing is a process. It's not a "done deal." So naturally, people one asks for feedback are going to find "holes" in the work. That's what feedback's for. But it can be done in a way that supports the writer's strengths. I just love that bit on toxic feedbak - thank you!

Lorel Clayton said...

I've critiqued few people's work, and I think I've avoided it because I have a hard time saying what needs to be said and tend to be overly nice. Your poster and the quote from Toxic Feedback is a helpful reminder that it's good to say what needs to be said. Thanks!

Talli Roland said...

Great post. It's so hard to give good feedback - sometimes I really struggle to identify what exactly I don't like (if indeed there is something) and then how to present it in a way that makes sense. It's a hard thing to do and I'm still learning for sure.