Annie On Writing

May 20, 2011

Asking for the right feedback

Filed under: Articles From write anything,My Journey as a Writer,Writing Tips — Annie Evett @ 12:01 am

This article first appeared over at Write Anything.

Over the past few years on this site, the topic of given and receiving constructive criticism has been addressed a number of times.

Our writers have offered strategies on how to give or handle rejection letters and critique, ways to managing the inner critic and opportunities to learn from the criticism received. However, taking it a step backwards, no-one has highlighted the types of feedback you may be asking for and how to ask for it.

Asking for a specific kind of feedback can be the best way to get advice that you can use, but for a myriad of reasons, writers shy away from requesting the specific information they need.

No doubt, the person you have handed your work to is someone you admire or trust. Very often, in the case of a fellow writer or a friend, they may not know what you are asking them to do. Without a clear context or reason for the feedback, your critic may struggle on what to say.

In its broadest sense, feedback is gaining a response to a process or activity. Feedback does not involved editing – thats a different kettle of fish all together!

Feedback that does not help anything but the ego include:

  • Parental glowing  over your latest “masterpiece.”
  • Your friend giving your story a quick glance and saying “Looks fine to me”
  • Comments (from friends, family, strangers, bosses, ) such as “Good” or “I like it.”

MORE helpful feedback includes:

  • Any comment explaining why someone did or did not like your work.
  • Any comment pointing out what mechanics within your writing worked or did not.
  • Specific examples, passages or images that the critic enjoyed or did not understand with a question or comment beside it.

Ask for the feedback you need, the topics you want to discuss and what kinds of questions you want answered.

Inform your reader of the guidelines you are working under –

  • the name of the competition/ submission
  • if word count is an issue
  • The intended audience
  • when you need the feedback by.

Be specific on what you want the reader to comment on:

  • You may want your reader to tell you if the entire premise is believable – so an overall ‘feeling of the story, rather than a micro analysis.
  • You may want feedback on a specific event or character within the story – in order for you to fine tune it.
  • Your feedback may focus on a readers comprehension of the theme you are presenting – if you need to highlight or downplay anything.
  • You may be asking your reader to check factual content and suggestions on where look for more information.
  • The feedback you are asking for may look at your interpretation of a specific scene, whether it makes sense of if its logical and consistent.
  • You may ask the reader to look at the “Flow” (good/ clear transitions? Does the introduction prepare or hint to the reader events which come later? Can the reader follow the story easily?)
  • You may be asking the reader to comment on your style – particularly if the piece is for a competition with a specific theme or genre.
  • You may be asking your reader to correct grammar.
  • Wordcount may be an issue and you need assistance in identifying passages which can be cut. Its not up to your reader to do this – but to give you their opinion as to what areas can afford to be trimmed down
  • You may askyour reader to proofread – picking up the small errors – spelling, typos.

Don’t just send your text off to a reader and ask for ‘feedback.’ Give them some guidelines and points to consider when they are reading it. When you do receive feedback, think of it as a way to help develop better writing strategies, rather than a personal attack; after all, you asked for it.


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