Getting constructive feedback on one’s writing offers a writer insight not only on the manuscipt, but other aspects of writing. This includes the writer’s Voice, tone, and style, as well as grammar, punctuation, and plot. After weeks, months, or even years on a story, a writer loses objectivity on what they’ve created. Allowing a fresh pair of eyes to read and give feedback offers the writer a chance a new look on what they’ve created.
The risk, however, includes the very real chance of being blown out of the water. I remember once letting my mother read a thirty page story I was working on; handwritten, front and back, and all she could say was that she felt the story was rather ‘dry’. Nothing else; just dry. I ripped up the entire thing. She never explained to me as to why she thought it was dry reading, how I could improve, or if the story had merit at all. I also never let her read anything else I did…ever.
My husband, who is not much of a reader, also doesn’t critique my work. Asking him to do so puts him in the precarious position of being put on the couch if he gets too mean about it, and he doesn’t have the familiarity with the genre to provide feedback.
The lesson here is to be very picky on who reads your work. Choose someone honest, and someone who enjoys the genre you write in. There’s no point in letting someone who loves murder mysteries to read fantasy, or someone who prefers memoirs to read horror. They won’t be able to give you pointers on a genre they are not familiar with.
Also, recognize a good reader as someone who can offer both compliments as well as criticisms. They should be focused on the writing, not the writer. The feedback should also provide improvement on what is already there, not to shred your dreams, or even deter you from your passion. Most writers say they would write regardless if they ever get published.
Take the critique as advice. Some feedback I’ve received I didn’t agree with. I didn’t say so, of course, but accepted their words graciously and considered what I wanted from my story. When I offer feedback, I try to balance the bad with the good. One writer I noticed loved using the same words over and over, such as the word ‘said’. “You lose an opportunity to use metaphor or unique words here.” I pointed out. I also pointed out the story flowed well, with the characters being realistic.
Remember your copyright! When allowing others to read online, always remember where your copyrights are. Some sites that offer feedback have in their terms of service that they own anything you post! Read carefully! Also when posting parts of your story in a blog or web site, some publishing companies see this as being ‘published’. Avoid this if you can. (For instance, everything in my blog is considered published and I cannot sell to content sites if I wanted to).
My writer’s group provides me with feedback to my own writing, as well as allowing me to peek into the worlds of other writers. I focus on remaining honest in my opinion, but also add to some members that the style they write is not one I’m as familiar with. For example, its difficult for me to critique a memoir, but I can still say if I liked what I read.