Friday, December 11, 2009
Fiction Friday: More on Feedback
I've had some interesting offline conversations over the past week on the topic of feedback. One of the chief discussion points seems to be how best to make your feedback useful to the artist.
Here are my thoughts:
1) Don't offer feedback unless it's requested.
2) Conversely, if you hand someone a piece you've written, and say, "What do you think?" that constitutes a request for feedback.
3) Try to offer your input at the level, or a single notch beyond, where the writer is at the time the feedback is requested. For example, if you get something from a very beginning writer, where there are very basic issues with grammar and structure, it's probably not useful to discuss things like mood and foreshadowing. Those are topics for more advanced writers, who have mastered the mechanics.
4) Maintain the self-esteem of the writer. (True of any sort of feedback, I think this is especially important where artists are concerned.) Undercutting the self-image of others doesn't help them. Try to be honest, but without cruelty.
5) Conversely, if all you want is praise for your writing, send it to your mom. It's her job to build you up and tell you you're great. The job of other writers is to help you grow and improve, and hearing only how wonderful your work is won't get you there.
You may be wondering, "Who died and made Jeanne Queen of Feedback?"
Actually, I took a class in this. More than that: my writers' group commissioned an English professor at a local college to develop and teach a six-week course in giving worthwhile feedback. His name is Ed Davis and he recently started a blog, which you can visit here.
Anyway, for six weeks we read short stories and critiqued them, learning from him, from each other and from the process. He provided much of the structure I wrote about last week, and the drill of doing it for six weeks really helped me to understand feedback, and to learn a lot about the craft of fiction.
Last Week's Winners:
I got a lot of good comments last week, but if I were to pick two that really stood out, they'd be Rachel Cotterill and Chef E.
Next Week's Prompt:
NPR did a story recently on a raw foods restaurant that just opened in Oklahoma City. They opened the piece by saying that opening such a restaurant in the heart of cattle country was "as promising as opening a Kosher deli in Tehran."
They got a lot of flack for that, and people wrote in to suggest other metaphors: "as promising as opening a no smoking section in Paris; a Hooters in Vatican City; a Best Buy in an Amish town; and - ouch - a trophy case in Wrigley Field."
So here's this week's challenge: Create a metaphor that starts "As promising as..." but describes something doomed to failure.