When do you seek out feedback?

Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Clementine_Danger, Sep 25, 2017.

  1. Ross O'Keefe

    Ross O'Keefe Member

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    I always want to seek out feedback. But I find that constructive feedback is hard to come by.

    I'd take feedback on everything I wrote, if I thought the person giving it would take the time to be specific and honest.
     
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  2. LazyBear

    LazyBear Member

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    One of the basic principles of software usability is to get early feedback from the users, so I just have to apply that in book writing without caring about my initial reputation from writing as a beginner. If I would stick my head in the sand until I thought that I was good enough, it would only hurt more in the end when I have learned everything wrong and have to start from scratch. I posted my third drafts from my second book while writing it so that I can make big plot changes before polishing.

    I did not show my first book because it was too late to change anything once it was finished. My main point in learning writing is to improve story arcs and prose for my comics that take years to draw so that I don't have to hurt my hand to draw something with a crappy story.
     
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  3. Lew

    Lew Member Supporter Contributor

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    I would not send out completely fresh material, i.e., the first few chapters, because it will be too rough and the story will not have yet emerged. I initially did just that, and the feedback was negative, causing me to shelve it for 13 years. That said, when I began an update and resumed writing the story around 2013, I did start engaging beta readers when the "Eagle and the Dragon" was still about half complete. The first was a co-worker who was intrigued with the story. It was my opportunity to see if someone who knew nothing of that era would enjoy the story, or if I should shelve it again as being too long and cumbersome... at that point it was over 100K words, ended up at 240K, 550 pages. Fortunately she was very enthusiastic, others also wanted to see it, and I wound up with many people asking me to hurry up on the next chapter. It was very motivating, but it could also have turned out differently. Use your judgment as to when you should request outside critiques, and by all means make sure that at least the SPaG is at a minimum. Word has a fine spelling and grammar checker, so don't use your betas for that mundane task. Give them the best you have for the point at which you are. You should be looking for at least three types of readers: the general public, for reception; other writers and teachers of writing, for story critique and flow; and experts in that genre, for technical accuracy, etc. Science fiction should have at least one review by a some with scientific interests or background, likewise medical, history, etc.

    And be open to critiques. As @LazyBear said, this is about the user interface, and the user is the reader. Hopefully you will be selective enough in your choice of readers to avoid those who will say simply "This is a piece of crap, I am sorry," without further constructive criticism. At the same time, you should welcome constructive criticism, and your immediate family and friends may not be willing to tell you what is wrong with your work. Fortunately, my wife @K McIntyre and I both write fiction now (she caught the bug from me). She taught English, literature and writing for decades, and I did extensive technical writing as part of my engineering and military work for at least as long, so we both do very professional first drafts. We have a very cooperative approach to critiquing each other's work. She is well into her second novel (serious as a heartache it is!), and I have to be careful not to tread uninvited into the future directions of her story. Her story deals with badly abused women, so one of our first betas will be our daughter, who has worked with such women for fifteen years.
     
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  4. K McIntyre

    K McIntyre Active Member

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    I find feedback essential. I get too close to the characters and the story, making it hard to see where the story needs help. @Lew is very good at seeing that, for which I am grateful. I know it is usually not recommended that spouses critique each others work, but we have managed to make it work well.
     
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  5. Lew

    Lew Member Supporter Contributor

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    Never threatened each other with bodily harm or murder, not even hinted at it!
     
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  6. K McIntyre

    K McIntyre Active Member

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    Well, maybe hinted a time or two, but the important thing is we never acted on it! Love ya, @Lew.
     
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  7. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

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    I like and, in general, agree with most of the comments on this thread about not sharing work too soon. When I first “restarted” fiction writing a few years ago I was so eager to show my work I would be like a child who’d just scribbled a drawing as I’d print a horribly rough draft of a story and beg my wife to read it. I wasn’t looking for critique or feedback really, I was looking for approval and encouragement. It was an unfair request of her, of course, for obvious reasons.

    Once I realized that such general and “easy” approval did nothing to help me improve as a writer, I’ve learned to be pretty selective about when to seek feedback and who I go to asking for it. Now I rarely show anything unless I’ve worked it through several drafts, and when I do show it, it is likely to another writer or to my critique group first. I’ll only share with my wife (which is a relief to her, actually) or friends when I think it is pretty close to being a finished piece.

    I had a writing instructor tell me that one of the biggest mistakes beginning writers make is to share their work too soon.
     
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  8. 2Bea

    2Bea New Member

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    Sharing rough work could be beneficial as long as the reader is aware of the author's expectations. I hate getting a critique request for a completed work only to find that the author didn't even spell check.
    If the writing is mechanically poor it could be that the author is still learning the basics, in which case I'm gentle but honest. It could also be that the writer is lazy. I invest less time when I suspect laziness although I'm still gentle but honest because I hate to tread on someone else's dreams. And because I'm a wuss.
    Personally, I don't show anybody anything until it's as clean as I can get it.
     
  9. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    One of the biggest downsides to sharing your work too soon, while it's still 'rough,' is that none of your betas will want to read any of your work ever again. If you hand somebody something that still needs refining and reshaping and discussion of story issues, plot problems, etc, that's fine. Hand them a verbal dog's breakfast? That's another thing entirely.

    You shouldn't expect your betas to start in with a red pen and begin working on your grammar and spelling line by line. If you're that unconfident in your ability to write plain English, then do what you can to learn beforehand, or while you're doing your own editing. If you are confident, but just don't care that you make lots of mistakes 'early on,' then by all means correct them before you hand them out to people.

    It's very easy for willing betas to burn out—or simply lose interest—if the writing is not polished enough when they get it. Been there. Bought THAT t-shirt.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
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  10. Mike43

    Mike43 Member

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    I shared my earliest attempts at writing here because I have absolutely no one else to take a look at it. My wife has early onset dementia, I live in a tiny township where, unless you're at least 3rd generation living in this black hole of a place you don't even exist -- it's not Mayberry -- it's the complete reversal of it. So I submit, get maybe one or two critiques that make suggestions, I immediately rewrite and post to see if I'm now going in the right direction -- have I cut too much, or too little, have I ruined it or made it better -- but no crits. It seems daft to continue travelling down a road to nowhere if you can get directions. It doesn't take long to look at a short piece, but it seems that most people cannot imagine just how alone you are. I wasn't looking for anyone to say 'hey, that's great' or pat me on the head, just wanted someone to tell me if I've taken crit on board and have improved.
     
  11. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unworthy in the eyes of the LORD Contributor

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    I'm very sorry to hear about your wife, but I can sympathize in a certain small way. My wife and I don't share a native language, and literally every other native English speaker I know is either a current or former coworker. Share away here, and if you ever get stuck, I'll try and do my best to help.
     
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  12. Mike43

    Mike43 Member

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    Thank you for your kindness and understanding Iain. What you've just said means a great deal to me. more than you can imagine. Most days I feel that I'm at the end of my tether and just feel like throwing in the towel, but for some reason I don't, or can't. Life can be very tough, I know that, and you have to fight, but that's all I've been doing for so long now, fighting to find some purpose. That's why I went back to writing. I can't do physical work (I'm disabled - have been for many years) and am now on O2. I've been so disappointed at the low volume of feedback - none at all on my 1st chapter beginning rewrite after a critique, and only 17 views, so I've scrubbed it. I thought I had a story and I thought I could learn to write better but I'm so discouraged that I'm rethinking things. It sounds like melodrama but I've got maybe 8 to 12 months left. I was willing to put myself away to accomplish something notable with the last of my time.
     
  13. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unworthy in the eyes of the LORD Contributor

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    I'll do my best to read and add some crits when I have a chance. Just a suggestion though, I took a peek at your workshop entries and they're all rather long. That's not a bad thing for writing, but in asking for a critique, you're going to get a lot more responses to entries under a thousand words than over. Most people don't have the time between everything else they're doing to spend fifteen to thirty minutes just reading a longer piece (gotta read slowly to critique well) and then the time to add suggestions. I know the desire to get the whole story out there, or at least the whole chapter, but sometimes you just need to put out the bits that you think may be problematic. If you want to publish something longer for the joy of having people read it, rather than getting critical feedback, the blog function is a good spot to go to.

    Anyway, gotta get ready for work, but I'll try and give you a hand soon, and best of luck with your situation.
     
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