Writing is hard on the soul. It’s an emotional roller coaster for the author, fraught with death traps and terrifying descents into partial insanity. One of the biggest issues arises when an author loses motivation, flow. A stop in forward momentum, the dreaded writer’s block, can be caused by painfully produced feedback. But, there’s also ways around it. We can recover, I promise. Let’s look at feedback besides the terrible.
I wrote this note to myself after a conversation in class with a woman named Veronica Jorden. It’s huge and sits right in the center of my desk next to the craft elements and when to use italics. This is what we should all be striving for when giving feedback to another author. When we are seeking feedback for our work, not the unsolicited stuff we have no control over, we can set some boundaries for what we receive. Explain to the reviewer, right up front, what format you are accepting and ask them to agree to your terms. There’s no reason to be overly restrictive and that would be unproductive anyway, but you can and should…
Apply these principles every time you give feedback to another. Expect them to also be applied to your work.
Acknowledge that they have accomplished something by writing a story and thank them for sharing it.
Compliment the strengths of the work, but do so without gushing all over them and becoming insincere. Every work has something going for it.
Critique those bits that don’t work in the story and suggest revisions (if the author has requested as much.)
Educate the author as to why the issues in the story are issues and direct them to outside resources if at all possible.
Above all, be supportive. This is a person, not just a name on a screen, and they have opened themselves up to you and asked for help. Be polite, kind, and giving of yourself.
If more people did, the world might just be a better place.
More on feedback next week, promise.