One of the best decisions I ever made as a writer was to be open to critique. By this I mean showing my work to others with the express purpose of receiving feedback. Over the years, these critiques have come from a variety of sources including teachers, editors, agents and fellow writers.
It takes courage and thick skin at times, I but opening oneself to critique is an essential part of growth. With that in mind, here are five tips for using feedback productively. These are geared to writers, but I think they apply to other situations as well.
FIVE TIPS FOR USING FEEDBACK PRODUCTIVELY
TIP #1: BREATHE AND BE GRATEFUL
- Recognize that each person offering critique is doing so in spirit of being helpful.
- Try to set aside feelings of defensiveness or sensitivity to criticism.
- Feedback is a gift!
TIP #2: BEFORE YOU DIG IN, RECOGNIZE THAT THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FEEDBACK
- GLOBAL: Overarching feedback which pertains to piece in entirety, addressing issues such voice, setting, pacing, marketability, heart and more
- STRUCTURE/STORY LEVEL: Pertains to structure of piece: rule of three, cumulative, parallel, story arc etc.
- SENTENCE LEVEL: Focuses on details of story at sentence level. May pertain to voice, character and any elements of story. More than just grammar, but can also include grammar, word choice, meter/rhyme.
- PRESCRIPTIVE: Gives specific suggestions for what to fix.
- DIAGNOSTIC: Makes observations and asks questions without prescribing specific solutions.
For more thoughts on these, visit:
TIP #3: GIVE EACH CRITIQUE A FIRST READ THROUGH
- This is your chance to get an overall sense of feedback. Don’t try to react or respond. Just read.
TIP #4: DIG IN MORE CLOSELY
- Look for types of feedback.
- Interact with feedback: Take notes, use a highlighter etc.
- Look for patterns in feedback. (Are several people saying similar things?)
- Look for the deeper message behind the comment. (Maybe, for example, what they are commenting on about an unconvincing plot development, is really grounded in an issue of theme or character.)
TIP #5: APPLY WHAT RESONATES
After you have thoughtfully considered all the feedback, it’s time to revise! Remember, though, that this is YOUR story. Feedback is a gift to help you bring it to the next level. That doesn’t mean, however, that you must apply every suggestion to your story. Choose what resonates, always remembering, that you, ultimately, are the crafter of your own writing and that you know best the heart of your story.
Most of all, enjoy the process, because this is what we writers do. repeating the process until our stories sing! HAPPY WRITING ALL!