The Blank Page is a new weekly series on Novelty Revisions dedicated to any writer who is just beginning their journey or starting again after a long pause. Check back every Monday for more tips and inspiration.
The one thing most new aspiring writers worry about the most? How to get credible feedback on their work.
Once you’ve finished your draft … once you know it’s a piece of writing you don’t want to leave sitting in a drawer for the next decade … how do you go about finding feedback you can trust?
Here are a few do’s and don’t’s.
Friends and family might not be your best options. I know it’s scary to even think about showing your work to people you don’t know. But here’s the thing about strangers: Even when they’re being kind, they’re not going to be afraid to be honest with you when needed. Your friends and family, on the other hand, are more likely to soften their feedback, which can turn out to be unhelpful no matter how well-intentioned.
There are plenty of online groups and forums where writers looking for feedback can partner up and exchange manuscripts. Don’t be afraid — it never hurts to ask.
If they’re your only option, it might help to approach them with specific requests or things to look out for — if they’re willing to give that kind of critique. Instead of asking “Is this good?” Maybe ask them if they think the dialogue is realistic, or if there’s too much showing and not enough telling.
People who have nothing nice to say aren’t usually worth the energy. Spend a day on the social internet and you’ll quickly realize some people just like to be negative for the sake of being negative.
Unsolicited feedback that only offers criticism upon criticism is not at all a reflection of the quality of your work. People will very often take their insecurities and thrust them back at strangers as they nitpick every detail of their writing, and though it can be extremely hurtful, it’s neither personal nor with your time or concern.
It’s not very likely that someone willingly giving you feedback on your work will waste both parties’ time by ripping the entire thing to pieces. Good critiques offer a balance of praise and constructive criticism with a focus on improving someone’s writing. People who are only interested in tearing you down aren’t worth listening to.
Never let one person decide whether or not your work is ‘good.’ You might feel comfortable asking a close friend, for example, to “tell you what they think” of your work. Regardless of their opinion (positive or negative), that one source of feedback simply isn’t enough to judge the quality of your work.
The same way journalists are told never to get their information from a single source, you shouldn’t rely on one person’s opinion to determine whether or not you should or shouldn’t move forward with a writing project.
Everyone likes different things. We each have individual reading preferences. Sometimes we Just Don’t Like Things and there isn’t necessarily a specific reason for that. Just because your one close friend doesn’t love what you wrote doesn’t automatically mean it’s “bad.”
If they have specific reasons they don’t, or suggestions for improvement, those are worth considering. But again — don’t take one person’s thoughts as a consensus. The more opinions and perspectives you have to work with, the better.
Just starting out as a writer or returning from an extended hiatus? Let me know how I can help. Just drop a comment below with your questions/concerns — I am here to serve.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.