Friday, December 18, 2009

Fiction Friday: On Receiving Feedback

For the past two Fridays, I've pontificated about how to give useful feedback to fellow writers. Today I thought we'd look at that transaction from the other end.

Some guidelines for soliciting and receiving feedback:

1) If you think what you've written is perfect, don't bother to ask for input. What's the purpose?

2) Conversely, don't hand off the baby while it's still dripping with amniotic fluid. Clean it up to the best of your ability before you ask anyone else to cuddle it. After all, only a mother (or father) could love what first comes out.

3) Know the capabilities of the writer you're asking for feedback. Is he familiar with your genre? Is his work at a comparable level (or better) than your own? Your best bet is to find a writer who knows and likes your genre, and whose work you enjoy and secretly (or not-so-secretly) believe to be better than your own, and get his opinion.

4) If you want specific kinds of feedback (help with grammar/mechanics, ideas for resolving a plot issue, feedback on whether a certain bit seems credible) ask for it. If you don't want specific kinds of feedback (for example, there's no real value in getting a line edit on a first draft), let your reviewer know that, too.

5) Don't argue with your reviewer. (Confession: I may have been known to do this once or twice.) Take her input, say thank you with all sincerity, and head to your cave to mull it over. If she says Character A seemed inconsistent and you can't see it, it's okay to ask for specific examples. Once you get them, though, you're back to smiling brightly and heading for your writing cave again. No trying to explain away the flaws. It doesn't matter if it's right in your head -- it has to be right on the page.

Last Week's Winners

Purest Green: As promising as a Saint Patrick's parade in Ibrox stadium. (Had to Google Ibrox stadium, but once I did, this is a great one.)

Doggybloggy: As promising as a lottery ticket. (I liked this one, because 99.999% of lottery tickets are false promises, and we know that, but we continue to buy them.)

Anymommy: As promising as getting twelve hours of sleep with a six month old baby... (This one made we want to hop on a West coast flight and do baby-duty so our new mom could get a good night's sleep. After all, I'm awake anyway.)

Chef E: As promising as a blind chef with no taste buds... This one made me think of the movie Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, about the world famous Chinese chef who loses his sense of smell.

Next Week's Prompt:

The best Christmas present I never got was....


  1. The best Christmas present I ever got was a private lesson in humility.

    Back in the late eighties, my younger sister developed breast cancer just after turning 30. This followed on the heels of a bad divorce where the ex got the house so she could keep her teacher’s retirement. After just having a breast removed, she was frail didn’t look well that Christmas. I had just bought my first camcorder and couldn’t wait to show it off and film the annual event at our parent’s house that morning. I found myself awkwardly avoiding aiming the camera at Cindy all day. I was selfishly embarrassed for myself because I had no clue how to deal with her situation. During the few precious years that followed, I learned to film her, without a thought of my own ineptness.

    The best Christmas present I never got was the first year she didn’t show up.

  2. Thanks for stopping by today. Your advice about giving and receiving feedback is right on. And I love the short writing challenges....

  3. Great advice. Thanks for posting my answer! I can't think of a Christmas present I never got... I shall have to ponder that one.

  4. Sound advice as always. Stuff that can't be said too often.

  5. All this is easier said than done, but I will try.

  6. I think your tips work in a broader sense too, not just for writers, but for living in general.
    You are the smartest person I know.


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