A friend just joined a writing group an mentioned that feedback can feel so personal. Here’s what I told her:
Writing groups can be so tricky, I think, because English classes teach us that the way to give feedback is through pointing out the problems, but that can be stifling in the early creative stages of a project.
If I’m at the very end or am stuck then I totally want someone to just tell me how to cut it up, but if it’s in a younger stage that feels so harsh and generally not useful.
I have always liked the 4 step feedback method I learned from storytelling coach Doug Lipman
. It’s up to the writer/receiver how far to go in the steps. Even if you only do the first one it’s really helpful to hear from multiple people what they like about the story.
*First: reader says specific things they like (might be plot element, language, imagery, tone, etc)
*Second: writer asks questions of the reader (ie, Was it clear that 1 year had passed? What did the main character look like to you?)
*Third: reader asks questions (ie, What feeling for you want the reader to have at the end? How old is the main character?) This step can be tricky because readers want to give suggestions but phrase them as questions.
*Fourth: reader gives suggestions; I think phrasing them as “what ifs” is best (What if you start with a flashback? I think you can cut the part about the dog).
I read the first draft of my MS and gave myself feedback.
As if I was writing to someone else.
(It felt like I was– but I write many conversations between my selves).
It was a beautiful gift to write down those initial thoughts.
I read without making notes or writing in corrections.
(I gave in to adding a few commas and marking one particular chapter I enjoyed).
I knew it was important– vital– to read and enjoy. To follow my sacred steps for feedback and begin with only love and appreciation.
And by just enjoying it (and I did! What a spectacularly complete first draft!), I felt curiosity, sensed elements to explore and add: I saw more of the path forward.
And now I have these first love notes written down– I have a compass setting, taken before I or others applied rules, formulae, evaluations.
I’ve saved its wildness and true north.