feedback – #WhatImWriting

Writing Bubble

 
As I set about writing this post for Week Four of ‘What I’m writing’ I can’t help smiling. The last three weeks of the linky have gone so well and we’ve had more people joining in every week! Your posts have been so interesting and inspiring and the comments have been amazing. Our little community is already a lovely place to be. Thank you so much to everyone who’s joined in (and to any new linkers, welcome!) Chrissie is hosting today so if you’re here to link up, please head over to Muddled Manuscript.

So, this week I’ve been mulling over more questions (I’m always pondering something or other). I keep finding myself thinking ‘oh I must ask the #WhatImWriting people about that’ as though I get to sit down for a chat over coffee and cake with you every week. I wish I did! There’s so much I want to ask, but to avoid this post going on till Christmas I’ll just stick to one subject this week: Feedback.

honest criticism

I rarely request or receive any feedback on my work. I’ve never shown the first draft of my novel to anyone (though I will when it’s finished, of course) and only show my husband work if I’m going to submit it… and I’ve made very few submissions. Obviously, I publish work on my blog and get feedback that way but I’ve never requested ‘constructive criticism’ which has meant that the lovely people who comment all say nice things.

When I first started blogging a year ago I was pleased when anyone commented at all, and for ages I was so nervous about publishing my work that there’s no way I would have courted anything but the most kindly of comments. Now though, I’m wondering if it’s time to break out. If I’m ready to risk hearing more. Dare I publish my flash fiction and ask ‘what do you really think?’

As nervous as the idea of hearing what people really think of my writing makes me, I’m aware that feedback is what helps us improve. How can we ever learn from our mistakes if no one tells us what they are? I could be missing out on a huge development opportunity. But is my blog the best place to ask for constructive criticism?

What do you do? Do you get feedback regularly from friends or family? Have you submitted work and got feedback that way (I know some places will offer it)? Do you ask for (and receive) constructive criticism on your blog? What feedback methods are your favourite? Am I weird for even worrying about this?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Oh and just to update you on the challenge I set myself two weeks ago – I managed the limerick I aimed to do and wrote not merely one, but two pieces of flash fiction but this month’s word count for my novel is a teeny three thousand words. I didn’t even manage the five thousand I set myself which was a much smaller number than I’ve done in any other month. Sigh. But you never know, maybe I’ll have a creative burst tonight! I can but hope.

22 thoughts on “feedback – #WhatImWriting

  1. Mummy Tries

    Firstly lovely, well done on taking the first step. I think the fear or rejection stops us from doing all manner of things and asking for feedback on our blood, sweat and tears is no exception! I know just how you feel having yesterday received an 11-page critique of my book. It’s positive but there are a fair few changes he is suggesting need to be made before it’s public worthy. I am so pleased to have done it though, because I think it’s a tough call asking for genuinely honest feedback on a blog or from people who love you…

    I love your limericks and flash fiction. I reckon you should send them off to more competitions #justsaying #whatimwriting xxx

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks for #justsaying that! I think getting an editor was a great move on your part and a very brave one too – I’m glad it seems to be working out. I think if I ever get past the first draft of this book, or the second or third or whatever, I’ll get professional advice, though that does seem a long way away at the moment! Thanks for linking to #whatImWriting xx

      Reply
  2. Iona@redpeffer

    I have started to ask for feedback now. Initially it was just from my husband, and like you it has taken me a long time to feel comfortable and confident enough to start to reach out that bit further. I use my blog and Twitter to ask for constructive criticism. And I’ve had some really helpful comments too that have made a difference to my approach. I find the idea of critic groups way too daunting, let alone the hassle involved of trying to arrange childcare around meetings etc. And online groups seem so disparate.
    I like to use the online community now because it’s something I’ve spent time building and advice comes from those I respect.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      I noticed you getting ‘constructive criticism’ on a post recently (I even gave some!) and I thought it was brave of you. I was impressed. The comments were helpful though weren’t they so it was a good thing. I think it’s great that you have built somewhere you feel safe enough to ask for honest opinions. I too am completely daunted by critic groups and know people who’ve had bad experiences with online feedback, that’s why I’m so hesitant! Thanks for commenting Iona and for linking to #WhatImwriting

      Reply
  3. Nicola Young

    Hi Maddy, I think you are right to want to go to the next step. If you don’t put your work out there, then you will never know will you? I set up my Friday Fiction link for that very reason. I wanted to attract a group of like-minded writers, who would like to share their work and get feedback, whilst doing the same for the others involved. I have had some interesting feedback along the way – and not all of it was positive! But that is kind of the point. Constructive feedback can help you to improve your writing and ultimately that is what we all want isn’t it? I took the feedback I received on my Friday Fiction post last week and I have already made revision to my summary, so it helped me a lot.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      That’s good to hear, Nicola. I may try linking to Friday Fiction again and asking for honest feedback! I’ll need to link up a post I genuinely want to hear criticism of though – some are just for fun. Hmmm. thinking now (and still wondering If I’m brave enough… ) Thanks for commenting and for linking to #whatImwriting

      Reply
  4. Sophie Lovett

    I think it’s so hard to get decent feedback on writing projects. And yet so important because it’s nigh on impossible to fully make the transition from writer to reader when you’re really close to something! When I was teaching I tested out a couple of pieces of flash fiction on the kids – they didn’t know I’d written it at first, so it was interesting to hear their thoughts.

    With the first drafts of both my novels I’ve asked for feedback from a select group of friends and family. It was a terrifying prospect at first, but they were overwhelmingly positive. Initially I think I needed that as a bit of a confidence boost, but constructive criticism is as you say much more useful. My agent’s proved to be better at that, and I have a former colleague and fellow English teacher too who despite being a very good friend is not afraid to give me the truth :)

    I like the idea of critiquing each others’ shorter pieces through our blogs – especially now I’m building up the confidence to share more fiction! xx

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      I love the idea of running stories past kids you teach. I read my boys my limericks (because I write them for them) but nothing else. Mind you I don’t write much for kids…

      The #whatImWriting linkers could actually be a great group of people to get feedback from in the future. Food for thought.
      Thanks for commenting Sophie and for linking up again. xx

      Reply
  5. Emily Organ

    Feedback is very important but I think you need to be choosy about it. Friends and family will give you fairly friendly feedback because they love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. Acquaintances can be a bit more honest which, although hard to take at times, can be very constructive. I’ve read of people paying for a critique service only for it to backfire because, ultimately, feedback can be very subjective. Having a book published leaves you open to any type of feedback. I’ve had some critical, and useful, feedback which I’ve learnt from. I’ve also had some unnecessarily harsh feedback which I think some people will do if they just don’t like your work and wish they’d spent their valuable time reading something else. In short, I think you have to make the call on what feedback you listen to and what you ignore. It’s tough to make that decision!

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      I guess that’s the downside of having achieved the exciting goal of publishing – you’re so open to criticism! And there’s just no way you can please all of the people all of the time. You’re totally right about it being subjective – I’ve read some books that I think are awful that others have raved about. And I do wonder about that in terms of asking for feedback… how do you know when the other person is right and when it’s just a matter of opinion? That’s the risk of using your blog to ask for criticism I guess – it’s not a select group of friends who’s opinions you trust, anyone in the world could read and comment! Thanks for the comment and for linking to #WhatImwriting Emily xx

      Reply
  6. Chrissie Metcalf (Kristina)

    Ok, I read this, did a MASSIVE EPIC GENIUS comment then my phone had a whoopsy and ate it. So, I’ll try and recount what I said without sounding like too much of an arse:

    Wordcount will come. That’s ok. You’ve seen my average non-nano. It’s zero this week and likely to stay that way. It’s ok to take a break, as long as you’re thinking about the novel and your characters. Staying in touch with them is important.

    On the feedback: I sometimes wonder about this too. I LOVE people telling me how good what I post is, and it’s given me the confidence to be experiemental. I’ve had someone tell me what I’ve written is shite and it hurt like hell, but on the second pass, I saw the writing for what it was, and not what I thought it was in my love-addled brain. It’s made me a better writer and a better editor and proofreader.

    Giving constructive criticism is an artform in itself, I think. You can’t just wade in and be all like “OH, this bit is totally awful.” You have to be able to say “this bit ddin’t work for me…” unless it really is terrible. Then you should probably lie and let the person down gently.

    xx

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      I’ve nearly cried when my phone has deleted an epic comment in the past – thanks for writing it all out again!

      I will try and stay in touch with my characters. Keep thinking I might do an excerpt in their lives that’s not part of the book…

      There is a balance to be struck with feedback isn’t there? I too love the compliments and not just in an ego stroking way (although, yes, that too) but because of the confidence it gives me to try more and harder and differently. Positive support definitely has its place in the development process. There’s space for both types it’s just finding the best way to get the constructive criticism that’s key.

      And yes, giving feedback is a skill! I would hope most people wouldn’t just say “That was so bad I was literally slamming my face into the table by the end”…

      Thanks for commenting and hosting and generally being brill, ace and skill xx

      Reply
  7. Morgan Prince

    Gosh you are a brave lady considering this. I was about to say I have never had any constructive criticism from anyone but actually that’s not true.
    A while back I sent the first chapter of my book (draft 2 I think) to an author friend of mine and asked him to give feedback. When the chapter came back it was covered in red and I was a mess. I took it as a sign and didn’t write for a while. Then I realised it’s all part of the process and reading some of his comments made me change the story slightly. Now it is much better.
    For me it’s easier to hear the criticism from people I don’t know rather than friends. But again saying that I haven’t asked for constructive criticism from friends. I am very interested in the answers to this question. Brilliant post Maddy.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Morgan. I’m so glad you didn’t let the ‘constructive’ criticism put you off forever! They do say we have to expect a lot of it as writers but it’s much easier to understand that as an abstract concept than it is to experience the reality!

      Just this evening I’ve asked for (and received) honest feedback from my husband and a friend. I’ll be blogging about it soon! Thanks for linking up again!

      Reply
  8. Carol Cameleon

    Interesting Maddy. I always say that “comments are always welcome but no constructive criticism… this time anyway” after my flash fiction but maybe, just maybe it’s time for me break out of my comfort zone (put my fingers in my ears/cover my eyes) and learn and grow with it too…! You may well have given me the nudge I needed ;) And I may well have just commented with the longest sentence ever :) #WhatImWriting

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Glad to give a nudge although only do it if you’re sure. In my experience you would have to specifically ask to have constructive criticism, as the default of all the lovely commenters is to be positive! Good luck if you decide to be brave. I do think, in the long run, the only way is up but accepting any form of criticism is never easy – as the quote above suggests! Thanks for linking and commenting Carol. xx

      Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      You’re very welcome although Chrissie and I couldn’t do it without you all! I agree it is a lovely little community that’s formed. It makes me smile every week! xx

      Reply
  9. sadie hanson

    I think feedback is very important since you are writing for a reader to enjoy your work :o). And I think you do right with your novel – get a couple of drafts under your belt and then offer it for feedback. As for those who read your work, choose carefully, and go for other writers you trust and know will give you good constructive feedback :o). X

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Sadie – I have already taken a step in the right direction and asked Chrissie for some feedback on something… I’ll say more on tuesday!

      Reply
  10. Funky Wellies

    Asking for feedback is a good way to find out how readers react to your stories, I find. As you know, I am publishing a few extracts of my novel and getting praise but also constructive criticism really helps with the motivation. Can we hope for a draft to give you feedback on soon? :) xx

    Reply

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