?

Log in

No account? Create an account

The Feedback Date

« previous entry | next entry »
Apr. 14th, 2014 | 03:48 pm

FEEDBACK FEEDBACK FEEDBACK SOMEBODY TURN OFF THE MIKE!

Whew. That’s better.

Sometimes feedback is awesome—we write better, we work harder to earn approval from the person who gave great constructive criticism last time, we learn “Hmmmm….maybe that reference isn’t as widespread as I thought it was,”  or “Funny? I didn’t mean to be….”

Other times feedback is just a high whining sound distracting us from the music.

What’s good feedback? How do you use it? How do you give it? And in the world of Strangers on Teh Interwebz, how do you develop a critique relationship? The more you trust your fellow writers the better your feedback will be.

Like early-stage dating, writers employ polite euphemisms. A successful evening doesn’t start with “Is that your real hair color? Because you should change it.” No. We feel around a little, assume that if we keep chatting we’ll eventually see if the carpet matches the curtains.

“Your hair is such an interesting color…I was blond as a kid, were you?”

In an entry’s comments, we might find the following easily-translatable phrases.

“Great concept!”
Too bad you couldn’t write it.

“This has so much passion!”
WTF are you talking about?

“I loved your structure!”
At least it had a beginning, middle and end. Thank God it had an end.

“Can’t wait to see what happens next!”
Nothing happened.

“:)”
:\


And of course the classic authorial response,

“Thanks for reading!”
That’s all you have to say? Don’t you understand I NEED A HIT OF COMMENT CRACK.

Giving and getting better feedback is as easy (or as soul-crushingly difficult) as “Lower…not that low…a little harder please.” What we really want is that writer to get better, or our readers to magically know how to feel. But that’s not happening without clear communication.


HOW TO GET USEFUL FEEDBACK

Make sure you’re easy to read. Good font size and nice color contrast make the path to your style, craft and concept as easy as possible. Sure, it’s shallow. But you’d do your hair and pick a nice shirt before that first date. Make sure serials are self-contained--don’t tell long stories that need backstory to someone you just met. Mind your length. Anything over about 900 words wears the reader out.

Check out your reviewers. Do you hate Susie-Q’s comment, but usually agree when she comments on other people’s work? Maybe take another look. When Bob posts on someone’s piece and you think "Dude, did you *read* it?" then take Bob less seriously when he talks about yours. Read the critique-er’s work. Did someone criticize your characterization and you’ve hated every piece of slash fan-fic they’ve ever written? Let it go.

Watch for comment patterns. Does everyone wonder what happens next? Did nobody comment about that big twist you hoped they’d all get? If enough readers are asking about what you meant, it's not on the page as strongly as it is in your head.

And just like in bed, ask for what you want. Some writers put a note at the end or in their first comment, asking for concrit. It’s OK to be specific:

"I'm just trying to get the plot down - would love some feedback on that."

"Anyone got any thoughts on whether my dialogue rings true?"




HOW TO GIVE GREAT FEEDBACK

Nobody wants to be That Mean Person Who Insults Writers. But thoughtful feedback is a golden gift. Praise makes us happy. Criticism makes us write better. How can we give meaningful, positive, useful feedback, even if it’s harsh, and maybe even funny?


Try the Critique Sandwich. A nice comment, a question, another nice comment.

“Great setting, love how you built the world! I didn’t completely understand why Inara killed Meri—is there back story I didn’t get? The death was really vivid, I’d love to know more about why!”

Notice that the critique-er mentions it might just be them. This allows the critique-ee to take ownership by actively agreeing—or write it off if it hurts their feelings (which may not make them write better, but is a legitimate emotional response. Different post.)

Try questions rather than corrections: "Is the wedding meant to be a dream?" rather than "Did not believe tap-dance on altar, LAME!!!!!!"

Be specific: "Charley sounds like a sailor to me when he says, 'aye!' but you say he's a soldier, so I was a little confused" is more helpful than "Charley didn't seem like a soldier."


Talk about "working" and "not working" rather than "good" or "bad".

Engage pieces on their own terms. Don’t expect genre to be literary or vice-versa. "The mood here is really intense, especially in these lines, should that be eased up a little or is it working for the 'horror' feeling?" instead of  "Overwrought!"

Ask questions and discuss the answers using specific points in the work.

"Did anyone understand what she became at the end of the story? From this sentence, I got demon."

"Huh - where it says her cloak swirled, I felt like she was more of a vampire. Did anyone else get that?"



BASKING IN THE AFTERGLOW

In a traditional writer's workshop (like a grad school class or a retreat) writers work hard not to "defend". If they get engaged in explaining their work, they miss helpful comments, or someone with a great criticism might think the writer doesn't want to hear it.

Critique-er: "I don't understand why Juliet kills herself, since her monologue is so hopeful in Act V."

Shakespeare nods his head, writes down the comment, and then may choose to address this by:

- rewriting the monologue to be hopeless
- cutting the monologue
- having Romeo's note sound like he's dumping Juliet instead of coming back
- having the Nurse tell Juliet she'll never be able to see her husband again
- having Juliet's father lock her in a room with no escape
- deciding that the person who asked this question is a dumbass who just didn't get it, and changing nothing, because his other two readers said it worked just fine

So Shakespeare need not answer the question or explain why the monologue is, in fact, hopeless--he just goes back to writing.

If you truly think a criticism is wrong wrong wrong, but you respect the person who offered it, ask questions. Instead of, "Her monologue reflects how she feels at the time!" Shakespeare might ask, "Can you point out some words you feel are hopeful?" or "Is it the structure or the content that feels hopeful here?" or "What if I added a scene with the Nurse taking away the hopefulness?" or "What if the monologue was in her bedroom instead of the garden?"

As writers, this lets us engage with critique while protecting us from over-explaining our work. For me, the battle is to find and develop readers whom I trust, so I spend more time fixing and less time saying, "they're dumb and didn't get it."



DO I SUCK?

Anyone engaged enough with your work to offer feedback is a win. Writers are more likely to critique something they loved with little flaws, or liked with great potential. If it’s boring or terrible, they’ll probably just say something nice and move on.

Treat critique like sex. Give as much as you can, paying attention to what the writer needs. Ask specifically for what you want, and remember that some people are lousy at it. If you’re hurt, speak up. If you’re not in the mood, it’s OK to politely decline.

Now let’s put on some soft music and get down…to writing.




___________________________________________________________
whipchick loves being first.




.

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Comments {57}

Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>

Kelly

(no subject)

from: kajel
date: Apr. 14th, 2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you for this. I would love to participate in the Killing Floor, but I have been worried about being able to constructively critique. I really liked how you opened this with link between feedback and a microphone. I found it a little long, but I love you words and was learning something, so I stuck with it. I have to laugh at the sexual references after last week!

(seriously, how do you critique someone you think is awesome and way out of your writing league) ;)

Reply | Thread

blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 04:44 am (UTC)
Link

This is me, butting in.

(seriously, how do you critique someone you think is awesome and way out of your writing league)

I can completely relate to this. A little over a year ago, when Allison and I started actively making writing dates, I was completely intimidated at the idea of giving her feedback. (She must know better than me, right? Check out how awesome she is.)

It's gotten easier, and here are some things I've learned.

- I'm not critiquing her. I'm critiquing the writing.
- Everybody's first (second, third) draft has room for improvement.
- Opinions. I has them.
- She and I are secure in our mutual respect for each other, and we share the goal of improving our writing. (Praise feels good. Critique helps you grow.)
- When you're working on something, it's easy to get blinded to some piece of info/background that is in your head but not yet on the page.
- She will either agree with my comments or disagree with them. She will either use them or not. Whichever, there is no impact on our writing buddy relationship.
= She does a great job of telling me when my feedback has been helpful. I have learned about giving feedback by giving feedback.

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

blink

(no subject)

from: yachiru
date: Apr. 14th, 2014 09:23 pm (UTC)
Link

I loves you.

I always try and put a little crit in any comments I make on stories/writing but I've had a few people get mad and defensive. I imagine my mouth is sewn shut when I'm in a workshop. Doesn't stop my demon eyes though. DAMMIT THE ENDING WAS GOOD. SHUT UP ABOUT THE ENDING. LAZERS.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:35 pm (UTC)
Link

I loves you too!!!!

Yeah - I try to feel it out a little and build relationships :) With you on the LAZERS--In workshops, I look down at my page and just write down every note I get, but I sure do write "said by Stupidhead" after some of them.

Reply | Parent | Thread

Desiree

(no subject)

from: x_disturbed_x
date: Apr. 14th, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC)
Link

This is something we can all learn from really. :D I am guilty of not living crit on entries but I'm going to try to work on that.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:36 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks! It's also super time-consuming to give crit, so a lot of times I end up rotating who I'm giving more substantial feedback to.

Reply | Parent | Thread

elledanger

(no subject)

from: elledanger
date: Apr. 14th, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC)
Link

You have such a fun voice, and such a positive delivery for this. And the examples work a treat. I can only hope it's a massive inspiration to folks and helps combat some of the feedback bashfulness.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:37 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks! I hope so, too - good crit relationships are the best thing I've gotten out of Idol, and I'd love to see more people get them (if that's something they want)!

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

Rattsu

(no subject)

from: rattsu
date: Apr. 14th, 2014 09:29 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you for writing this! Wish I had time to interact more this season, the killing floor is a brilliant idea and I've not even peeked into it yet. I have to say though, while I've hardly commented this season, I was always completely honest when I praised the structure or the form of a piece, because I am such a sucker for it!

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:37 pm (UTC)
Link

Hahaha :) And you're welcome!

Yeah, I feel guilty that I haven't gotten to the Killing Floor at all, because there are still so many to read!

Reply | Parent | Thread

mamas_minion

(no subject)

from: mamas_minion
date: Apr. 14th, 2014 11:17 pm (UTC)
Link

This is what I needed to read before writing my first post. Kind of letting me know what I was getting into with idol. Hopefully I will be a better commenter after reading this.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:38 pm (UTC)
Link

Aw, thanks! There's a lot of people who are totally willing to take feedback, and I think it helps when we ask for it, and then sort of feel our way around giving it :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

Vice Captain of the Universe

(no subject)

from: sweeny_todd
date: Apr. 14th, 2014 11:46 pm (UTC)
Link

I am going to read this properly soon (and I am at work, and thus should be 'working') but I needed to say: I love your bylines. LOVE THEM.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:38 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you!!!! I started doing them last season and it's so much fun to come up with :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

(no subject)

from: faerie_spark
date: Apr. 14th, 2014 11:54 pm (UTC)
Link

Yay...there's an entry from Whip Chick after all!
The feedback approach I learned from one of my writing teacher was to express how different parts of the piece made me feel. For example:

I really felt Romeo's sense of hopelessness when he was looking up at Juliet's balcony.

The other part of a feeling-critique is to share where one felt frustrated, confused, bored, or like the descriptions in the writing didn't match the feelings that what was happening evoked.

This teacher also encouraged us, as you have, to express what we're curious about when we give feedbac; what is it we want to learn more about?

I hope you don't mind me adding to and expanding on the approaches you've shared here.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:39 pm (UTC)
Link

Oooo, I love that!!!!! Yes, please add and expand! May I include your comments (attributed) if I do another draft of this?

Reply | Parent | Thread

dustdevil in disguise

(no subject)

from: dusty_chenille
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 12:37 am (UTC)
Link

Ah! This is fantastic.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:40 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you! I always think of a soft, pretty couch when I see your name, with a beautiful 50's starlet lounging on it :)

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

alycewilson

(no subject)

from: alycewilson
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:17 am (UTC)
Link

This made me smile, because I've used the question method in commenting.

I'm also highly aware of the comment trends on my own pieces. If everyone reduces a piece to "cute," I used to worry but now realize that it probably made them smile but was considered lightweight. If I meant it to be deeper, I have to remember to offer more next time.

The weeks I worry are when people make side comments about what I write about, instead of anyone saying that they smiled or that they liked it. Although I've made such comments on people's entries when I honestly just wanted to share something that the entry evoked, and actually liked the piece. That sort of non-commentary comment can mean numerous things, I suppose.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:41 pm (UTC)
Link

I agree - and I've totally left "Cute!" when I mean "Fluff!" but also when I mean "It's three hours before voting and I have 50 more to read I swear I read this though."

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

tonithegreat

(no subject)

from: tonithegreat
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:31 am (UTC)
Link

This is awesome! I really appreciated your in-depth commentary made in one of the work rooms a while back. I wish I'd responded with more of the squee that I felt at getting such feedback. I shall try to take this to heart and do better with my own commenting.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:42 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks! I was just relieved that you were OK with getting unasked-for feedback in that much depth and not mad at me! You did make it clear that you were pleased, though, so no guilt there :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

reckless_blues

(no subject)

from: reckless_blues
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:57 am (UTC)
Link

This is excellent advice!

I never know how to respond to comments. "Thanks for reading" is impersonal and meaningless and probably simply annoying ... So I just kinda coldly ignore them if I can't think of anything better to say.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:42 pm (UTC)
Link

Yeah - that's such a tough one! And I totally do it, too. I think it's why I over-emoticon, too...

Reply | Parent | Thread

Epiphanyrun

(no subject)

from: epiphanyrun
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 03:29 am (UTC)
Link

I really enjoyed this. It's refreshing, like a cool smoothie on a hot summer's day. I especially liked the phrase translations and how you solidified your remarks by giving an example, Romeo and Juliet, which takes ideas from floating up in the stratosphere somewhere to posing nude right in front of us.

Maybe it's just me, but I get and enjoy your non-fiction instructional pieces more than your other writing. It just seems to be full of gliding pizazz as though, of course, that word goes after that word and that paragraph fits after that one. It's polished smooth like a bracelet of semi-precious stones.

It could be, emotionally, I don't always want to go where you're going or don't always understand what you mean (and assume everyone else must--as they're all saying they love it--and I don't want to insult you by raising my hand to say, what now?), but, in posts like this, I'm standing at the front of the line after sleeping in the parking lot all night for the chance to be the first person to buy the new video game or smart phone that's going on sale at 8:00 a.m.

What you said is interesting and, unlike too many how-to articles of a more theoretical nature, actually delivers something useful, rather than being all whipped topping and no strawberry shortcake.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:45 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks so much! And what cool metaphors - I'm honored :)

Yeah, I like writing non-fiction in general much more, and I'm finding my voice in instructions. I'm working on a course for SkillShare about how to get published, and the scripts were such a slog until I realized, wait! I can be funny! And then these will be fun to write!

Different strokes for different folks - don't ever feel weird about a piece that someone else likes not ringing your bell. You have a right to your opinion and your own tastes. And you can totally ask what now any time you feel like it :)

So glad to have you as a reader. Thanks.

Reply | Parent | Thread

Rebecca Sparrow Wanderlust

(no subject)

from: rswndrlst
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 04:21 am (UTC)
Link

Yes thank you this was very helpful. I need to work on both giving and receiving feedback.

You are a very insightful lady The "translated comments" made me laugh because it's so true.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 01:45 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you and you're welcome! I had fun with the translations so I'm glad you liked them, too :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

Teo Says

(no subject)

from: eternal_ot
date: Apr. 15th, 2014 03:06 pm (UTC)
Link

This was really helpful..:) and actually the reason I joined Lj..to improve my writing...loved everybit of what you wrote..esp as to how to react to a critic..*hugs*..Thank you

Reply | Thread