Showing posts with label feedback. Show all posts
Showing posts with label feedback. Show all posts

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Feedback: Friend or Foe

When I took my first screenwriting course, I received a piece of advice I always keep at the forefront. Be careful of when and where you seek feedback. 

This is especially true at the early stages of any project. Share your ideas before they're developed, and you may be steered off the right path or encouraged to go in the wrong direction. Plus, when you receive too many ideas on your work from others, you run the risk of getting stalled by information-overload. This is neither good for you or your project.

For these - and other reasons - always be mindful of where and when you seek advice. I'm not saying never get input. (Sorry for the double-negative.) There are perils in going to the other extreme. Constructive feedback - and of course editing - are imperative for those who want to put out a professional project, which, by the way, should be everyone. 

Here are some rules to keep in mind where feedback is concerned.

1. Know your Work Before you Share It. You must have a sense of your project before you can be objective about any recommendations, and know whether you should keep or disregard them. Having trouble finding a path for your characters or the outline for your non-fiction book? Try writing things a few different ways, and give yourself the opportunity to decide on direction.

2. Choose a Few Trusted Advisors. Especially for longer work, at some point you will need feedback, editing, and maybe even some help with development. That's fine. Just keep your circle small and be selective. Reach out to no more than three or four people to be a part of this tribe. Make sure you have vetted any paid advisors before you bring them on board, and that the friends and peers you choose have your best interest in mind.

3.Share Work in Pieces. If you are having trouble with something specific and desperately need feedback, especially at the early stages, ask only about that bit. Keep your project as vague as possible, but share a scene, a character description, or an idea for something you might include. Compartmentalizing in this way will keep the conversation focused and unwarranted feedback at bay.   

I have a vivid memory of attending a critique group as a guest many years ago. A women read the first chapter in her romance novel, and people were offering her suggestions right and left. They ranged from changing the characters' traits and adding new ones to altering the plot entirely.

Afterwards, I sought out the author. It was my first meeting and I was not allowed to offer feedback in the group setting - don't get me started on that one. I told her to keep going in her direction, to follow her gut. There'd be plenty of time for input once she had a better sense of her novel, and could be objective about any recommendations.

What are your thoughts on getting feedback on your work? With whom do you share your work? Please share in the comments.

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Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group

She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the Guided Goals Podcast.

Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Integrating Feedback into the Writing Process

Integrating Feedback into the Writing Process

Guest Post By Laura Bickle

Writing for oneself is a completely different animal than writing for other people. When writing for oneself, there's a freedom to explore any idea or format that one likes. There's freedom to make errors. With an audience of one, there's very little pressure to conform to the ideas of others. There are no rules.

Writing for others is different. When developing an idea or manuscript for sale, there's a certain amount of external input needed. Input comes in many forms: from beta readers, critique groups, agents, and editors. External input is invaluable: as a writer, I'm often blind to flaws and blatant errors in my own work. I can read the same sentence over and over and not see a mistake in logic that another will readily see.

But too much feedback can also be a bad thing. Each reader approaches a manuscript differently, has different tastes and desires. One reader may adore a chapter while the next may hate it. And if I've solicited feedback from many sources, that feedback can sometimes conflict. I feel that I have to address every issue raised...even when there is no way to incorporate everyone's opinion. I can sometimes fall into analysis paralysis, and never find my way out of the revision forest. The old saying about too many cooks spoiling the broth definitely comes into play.

I think that there's a balance between using our internal compasses and soliciting external feedback. To be certain, some feedback is vital and necessary. It produces a more sound work. And some of it - particularly editorial suggestions - are not optional.

But there must be limits. Writers must remember that not every book is for every reader. And creating a work that encompasses all possible feedback is frankly impossible. Over-critiquing a manuscript can sometimes be harmful...a writer can lose track of the original inspiration and voice. Being in a state of constant revision can result in disjointed, disconnected parts. The flow can get lost. When I read manuscripts for others, I can often tell when plot threads were snipped and moved around over and over, because threads are dangling.

Sometimes, it's helpful for me just to set a manuscript aside for a while. Let it percolate. Read it some months later with a fresh eye. Sometimes, the project will not see the light of day. I take what I've learned and move on. Sometimes, I'll go forward with it after time has passed.

And I think that it's also helpful to develop a small network of folks who are able to act as critique partners. People who will be honest, who understand my genre. Folks who aren't afraid to scribble in the margins: "What the heck is this platypus doing here? And when did he learn to play the kazoo?"

I think that's valuable. I gather three or four sets of feedback, with the sources depending upon the project. With three or four recipes, I have a pretty good idea of how to improve my chicken soup. I still feel as if I have control of the project, and that the book isn't being written by committee.

With any artistic endeavor, you can't please everyone. And that's also true for writing groups and critique partners. The trick, I think, is to be able to filter feedback and integrate it into a work without losing track of what you set out to do. 
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Laura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science, and when she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library she’s dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs (she also writes contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams). Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and a herd of mostly-reformed feral cats. THE HALLOWED ONES is her first young adult novel. Get the latest updates on her work at www.laurabickle.com

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MORE ON WRITING

The Gift of Feedback
Would You Make a Good Reviewer?
Writing Fiction: Character Believability and Conflict

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Rejections Lessons


My writing teacher warned me this would happen. One rejection letter after another piled on shelves and shoved into filing cabinets. There's enough paper to cover my office walls--and ceiling and floor and some of the hallway.
 
Well, that's one solution.
 
There has to be more to the rejection letter than dust collector and object of scorn. Most writers will say that the best way to handle rejection letters is to read them, file them, and send the rejected piece off to someone else as soon as possible. It's not bad advice, but it's not good enough.
 
Take a long, hard look at that letter. Has the editor tossed you a crumb of hope? Given you even the slightest chance to hang on to your confidence and self-respect?
 
Yes, it's a form letter--the same terse, soulless letter they send to every writer who doesn't make the grade--but what else? Amongst all those stiffly typed words, is anything other than the signature handwritten? Quite likely. Editors like to add quick notes to writers who show some promise. If you can decipher the scrawl--editors are as inscrutable as doctors when it comes to penmanship--pay attention to the words. If you're lucky, the editor will compliment one or more aspects of your story--then tell you exactly where he or she thinks you went wrong.
 
Take the comments seriously, but don't take them to heart--unless they all start saying the same things. If nine out of ten editors say your ending falls flat, it probably does. Don't sulk. Don't get angry. Fire up your computer (or uncap you pen) and get back to the business of writing. Tuck your original version away--just in case--and start making changes. Use the suggestions you like. Dream up a few of your own. Throw away the rest. After all, it's still your story. You can only make so many changes based on outside commentary before it becomes someone else's story.
 
Thicken your skin by joining a writers' workshop (either online or in person). Everyone submits their work for critique. It won't take long for you to realize that a single story can generate critiques that run the gamut from "this is absolutely wonderful" to "better luck next time."
 
Whether you're hearing from fellow writers or detached editors, don't take the comments personally. Except in rare cases, critiques are aimed at the story, not at the writer.
 
Finally, accept the fact that--for most of us--the rejections will far outweigh any successes. Writing is a subjective art form. Standards of quality shift from person to person and from moment to moment.
 
Remain as true as possible to your original vision. Somewhere amidst all those publications is an editor who sees life as you do--or at least appreciates the way you present your case.
 
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Betty Dobson is an award-winning writer of short fiction, essays and poetry. She also writes newspaper and magazine articles but is still waiting for those awards to materialize. In the meantime, she continues to run InkSpotter Publishing, which is always open to submissions and queries.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Gift of Feedback

Feedback, otherwise referred to as constructive criticism, can make the heart beat a bit faster. Each of us, in our lifetime, have been subjected to this feedback, yet society doesn't tell us either how to give or receive feedback well. Consequently, even when our intent is to help another, the feedback we give feels hurtful or mean. With writers, too often, this "constructive criticism" may stop a person from writing.

Some suggestions: When giving feedback:
1. Ask for permission first. "May I make a suggestion . . ." This gives the person the option of saying, "no."

2. Use "I" statements. "I have found . . ."

3. Remember that even though you may appreciate and accept feedback well, others may be more sensitive to criticism. Keep that in mind and adapt your comments to reflect how they may be received by someone else.

4. Do not say something to someone on-line that you would not say if that person was standing in front of you.

Some suggestions: For receiving feedback:
1. Resist the urge to become defensive. Remember, it is difficult to give feedback too!

2. Take a deep breath. You are not perfect. No one is. We all have things we can work on. This is not about whether you are liked or not.

3. Listen. Then find the truth. Okay, so we are all not perfect. We all have things we can work on. Somewhere in the criticism there will be a suggestion that will allow you to take your writing to the next level. The message might be filled with untruths, but somewhere, trust me, will be something that can be taken and used. So consider and evaluate the criticism. Then decide how to act.

4. Ask for help with your writing challenge. If you need it, ask. Trust me, there are people who want to help.

Finally, thank the person who have you a gift, the gift of believing you are worthy of feedback.

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D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a Young Adult Science Fiction series. Her latest book, Flight from the Water Planet, Book 1 of The Exodus Series was written with her coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth  where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She has also compiled a collection of short inspirational material for writers in The Write Balance, Journaling the Writer's Life.
She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at www.djeanquarles.com
Her novels are available in electronic format here, or print format here
You can also follower her at www.djeanquarles.blogspot.com or on Facebook
  

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