1. mbear
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    mbear Member

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    Lying to get honest feedback.... Good idea or not?

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by mbear, Jan 9, 2013.

    I am working on my book and have been toying with how to get others to read and give me honest feedback on it. Basically I just want to know if I am on the right track with it and if the story is good and just requires some touch ups as far as grammar and maybe a few places I need to beef up the story or shorten or if the whole concept is boring and I need to reconsider the entire work. My initial idea is to give it to three people who I think this work would appeal to (my sister, and two friends). If they like it then I have a friend who is writing their own book so I would then give it to her and then if I still am getting a good feeling on the actual concept and I want to really finish it up and work out all the issues, then I have a respected teacher that has published many times that I will like to get some "expert" advice from her. And then go from there.

    I plan on telling my friend who is also writing a book that the work is mine and I plan on telling the teacher too, but I am playing around with not telling my sister and two other friends the truth. Mainly this is due to the feeling that they will not tell me the truth on if it is any good or not. I plan on presenting it to my sister and friends as another friend's piece and that she has given it to me to distribute to people who will give her honest feedback who do not know her. I would then ask if they would mind doing that for my friend. All three are avid readers and I think would jump at the chance. Is this a bad idea?

    I know that there is one or two parts that I might have to change for one friend, basically just a phrase or two, because I took them from my friend's vocabulary and I think that she would immediately pick up that its my work. I liked adding these phrases in the book because they actually work well and I feel like its a little shout out to my best friend.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Drusy
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    Drusy Senior Member

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    It can be so hard to get honest feedback, can't it? At least you have people who will actually read it. My family is full of non-readers and those that do, aren't interested in my genre. Lest I lose the topic ... I am betting that your voice is more recognizable than you think it is and I'm not a big advocate of lying because it most often leads to getting caught. If they've never read anything you've written, you might stand a chance. Here's the real problem though ... what if you don't lie to them and they do really, really like it? Would you believe them when they tell you that there isn't much they would change?
     
  3. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    I can't recommend lying, it might backfire in many ways. But I kind of liked the idea you prepared for your lie: what about actually giving the book to your sister and friends not only to read it, but also to pass on to some other readers who might be willing to give feedback to someone they don't know? I'm not sure if that would work, but at least you'd find out if the lie was plausible. :)
     
  4. mbear
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    mbear Member

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    Most of my family are not that into reading but my sister and my two friends are into the exact same books. We usually trade. I have never allowed anyone to read my writing other than college professors and my husband to proof read. Those papers were non-fiction on politics and economics, so I feel that as far as my writing style I probably would be safe. I have only two people in the world that know that I am writing something, my friend who is also writing a book and my best friend. I have also mentioned to my best friend about my book writing friend, so I feel that I could easily pass this off as my book writing friend's work. Additionally, the book that my best friend thinks I am writing about has actually been shelved and I have another that is near completion of my first draft. So I feel that I have a 80% chance of pulling it off. My own sister, has always considered herself the writer of the family, but this is because I am more private in my writing and she will tell anyone who will listen that she will be writer one day (no negativity meant, I am actually very proud of her confidence and wish I could have some of it in regards to this).
     
  5. mbear
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    mbear Member

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    My only issue with asking them to give it to friends, is I am a very private person and feel that my writings are almost like my babies. I have not really decided if I want the outside world to have my writings. I actually told my best friend once that when I pass, that people will be really surprised of all actual writing I have floating about my home (my husband included). It makes me think of Emily Dickinson, and how people were aware of her writing but after she passed they found over 1800 poems, etc. So I feel safe about giving it to three of my favorite people whom I know will not show a soul if I ask, but get an anxiety if I think about others who I don't know seeing it. But I really want feedback, because in my opinion, that is the only way to improve and grow. Then after they read it I will figure out if I want to progress to my writer friend and then if I still feel comfortable then maybe the teacher I mentioned.
     
  6. Drusy
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    Drusy Senior Member

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    Well, it sounds like you have good chance with it since they haven't read your work and don't know you're working on it. I have another couple of questions though... what if your sister does find out? Is she relaxed and forgiving or is it something that will cause strife? Also, what if your sister returns it and has ripped it to shreds? Keeping in mind that her friends might love it - it might be the next great novel but she simply felt another way ... how would you feel having that kind of feedback come from your sister? We all hope for honest feedback but would you be able to keep it a secret that she might have hurt your feelings because you won't be able to tell her. Best of luck deciding! I hope it works out. :)
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't recommend lying either. I also don't recommend giving stories to friends or relatives to read, whether they know its yours or not. (Wouldn't they wonder why you would want them to read somebody else's writing? And why would they be compelled to give it more than a perfunctory glance?) I'd go for a critique group or find a couple betas myself (though the teacher sounds like a good bet), mainly because they would more likely know how to give a critique.
     
  8. BritInFrance
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    BritInFrance Active Member

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    Don't weave a web of lies. If you really want an honest critique of your work (and many of us say we do, when we don't), you need to ask them directly and say exactly what you want from them. I know how difficult it can be, but if you trust their opinion then go for it. Good luck.
     
  9. Cerebral
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    Cerebral Active Member

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    If you have the stomach for real, honest feedback, I would lie. As long as you're a convincing liar, it's a win-win; your sister/friends will be honest without worrying about hurting your feelings and you know for sure what you need to work on (or you know for sure that you did an awesome job). I know that if I ask my family and friends, I'll get unrealistically positive reviews, despite wanting the cold, hard truth.

    Good luck!
     
  10. Quille
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    Quille Senior Member

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    I agree with the people who say don't lie. How are you going to respond when your sister asks what you think of it?

    You could try putting it on a shelf for a while and working on something else. Then you can return to it with somewhat fresh eyes. As far as your concept goes, not everyone is alike, what is boring to one person, fascinates another.

    Sometimes, honest critiques are hard to take, even those from other writers. You might try sharing an excerpt and see if that gives you an idea of what to expect and whether it's what you need right now.

    Good luck and have fun.

    Edited to change a word.
     
  11. Drusy
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    Drusy Senior Member

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    I've wondered about this "beta" concept before. Is there a place where you can get feedback as you go without having to worry your story will get stolen? Even if you have to pay a little.
     
  12. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Honest feedback is only useful if you can take it and know what to do with it.
     
  13. tmrose
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    tmrose Member

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    I was a beta for an acquaintance. I think she chose people she wasn't terribly close to, but were also honest and trustworthy. Consider how people present their arguments in general, and if that person fits what you're looking for in a beta, then do it!

    As for OP, I'm siding with the not lying thing. Go with your friends and ask what should be changed before you go to a beta group. Then choose people you're not terribly close to for that reading.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you can't trust someone to give unbiased feedback if they know who wrote it, what makes you think their opinions on the writing are worth a damned thing?

    Surely you aren't that desperate for feedback!
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If you're as private as you claim about your writing, do you think it's really a good idea to lie about whose work it is?

    For example, if someone didn't like it, there're many ways they could express the same thing.
    A: Well, it's not really my thing.
    B: It didn't interest me enough I think.
    C: It was terrible, got so bored reading it!

    And what I'm worrying is - if you did lie and sure, your sister and friends give you completely honest feedback that's not laced with careful word-choice and worry of being tactful and gentle - what if you get feedback that sounds like example C above? Would your heart be able to take it, and not despair, not be discouraged, and carry on? Would you be able to handle it that you wouldn't grow afraid of showing your writing to anyone at all?

    And the truth is, while they might not know it was your work - YOU know, and you will take it personally. Are you sure, if you ended up with harsh feedback, that you wouldn't end up bearing a secret grudge against two of your most loved people, and then even be unable to explain why you're acting all different around them or suddenly no longer wanna show them your work?

    Sometimes it's good to get gentle feedback - equally honest but delivered carefully - and that is healthy, and will serve to protect yourself and your confidence.

    The truth is, your friend and sister will probably be very gentle with you - which is how it should be. Because if they weren't, I'm not sure you'd be able to handle it, given how sensitive you seem about your writing, and how terrified you are of people judging it.

    Some of the feedback I've had on my novel has been extremely harsh - the friend I ask for advice from repeatedly has laughed in my face so many times now, made countless jokes about my characters, my plot, my writing, my word choice - you name it, he's mocked it. And it still gets me - it hurts. And I'm not sensitive like you are - I'd show my writing to anyone who asks, and I could be told that I'm utter crap and should give up on even trying to write, and still I will keep writing with the belief that I'm good enough and improving. In short, I'm thick-skinned, and in fact I ENJOY laughing at my book sometimes - and still I get awfully hurt when the feedback has not been sufficiently sensitive.

    Based on all of this, my advice is - don't lie. It's not fair even on your friend and sister, because what if they did hurt you? But they didn't want to - but you never allowed them to make that choice.
     
  16. Cerebral
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    Cerebral Active Member

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    This is actually really good advice...yeah, I retract my previous comment...
    It seems I was the only one that advocated for lying. Hmm...
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'lies have short legs' and 'you can't hide an awl in a basket' are old russian sayings that say lying is never a good thing to do...
     
  18. mbear
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    mbear Member

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    I really don't think that there would be any resentment or anything between my sister and myself. We rarely have an issue or any jealousy when it comes to each other. We are very different in personalities yet very similar in life choices so we do really well together.

    As far as the feedback, that is a good question. I am very critical of my own writing so I am expecting her to come back with suggestions and maybe not being a fan, also I tend to go for the tragic endings and she prefers the happily ever after endings so I don't expect her to love the ending of my story. After I received the feed back I planned on telling the person giving the feedback. But if my sister were to say it was the worst thing she has ever read, then I might be a little wounded-- but I feel that my sister would never say something was the worst ever even if she never met the person. If she really hated it I might never admit was mine and give it to another person to see if they feel the same. By the way, I am a child of divorce and a step parent who is bi-polar, I am a pro at hiding my feelings.
     
  19. mbear
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    mbear Member

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    Shadowalker-- I am also wondering like Drusy about the concept of betas. I feel uncomfortable about the idea of just putting my story out there to strangers, how do I know its protected?
     
  20. mbear
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    mbear Member

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    BritInFrance- I definitely want an honest critique. That is the main reason I am considering the idea of lying.
     
  21. mbear
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    mbear Member

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    Quille: If asked what I thought of it, I was planning on telling her the truth of what I like and what I don't. While I believe in what I wrote, there are a part or two that I feel could use something but I am wonder if its just me being hypercritical or if it does need some work. The particular parts I am mentioning, I have changed several times, but keep ending up back at the same point so I am wondering if I am fixing just to fix.
     
  22. mbear
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    I am just putting myself in their shoes if they were to ask me. There is no way I could give completely honest feedback, I would never want to hurt their feelings or to squash something that they are so proud of. But if my friend who is writing her own book was to ask me, then I feel I could be very honest. I know how valuable feedback is and I would want to give it because I know that the friend would value it.
     
  23. mbear
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    mbear Member

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    That is a good point. Maybe it is their choice to make and putting myself in their position, I may not like being tricked.
     
  24. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I never ask family members to critique my work - in the past after reading several chapters of
    a book I was working on, my mother just looked at me with her mouth open like she'd never saw me before.
    She reads gentle romances and seemed to think ( hoped I'd be ) the next Lucy Maud Montgomery.
    I'd rather have people with no opinion on me, expectations, and a minimum of tact - read my work
    and give me honest criticism.
     
  25. SunnyE
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    I agree with the others about not lying. That never goes over well. I was worried about the same thing when I needed honest feedback on the book I'm working on. So what I did was go to the people that I wanted the feedback from, and I explained to them that I wanted nothing but honesty from them, but they were certainly free to be gentle. ;) I told them that if they just tell me what they think I want to hear, they would be in no way helping me. If I hand my book over to an agent/publisher and it's crap, but every one of the people who proofed it for me told me it was amazing, I'd be in for a rude awakening. I would suggest you do something similar. Just tell them that you trust their opinion, or you wouldn't be coming to them, and that by telling you what changes should be made (from a reader's viewpoint) they will be helping you to get your book published. By just telling you "it's great, don't change a thing," they will be hurting you. As much as every writer would love to be told their work is perfect, it never is. Changes can always be made to improve it. By being honest with them about what you really need from them, they will be more likely to be honest with you. You can also give them an out by telling them that if they don't think they can give you negative feedback, they can decline reading it and it won't hurt your feelings.
     

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