Creative and Memoir Writing Feb. 15, 2023

Prepared by Carol Brennan King

Today we talked about feedback, giving it, receiving it, and applying it.

In any quality writing class or group, writers spend a significant amount of time reading and discussing both student WIPs or works in progress, as well as already published work by noted writers.

We read the published work to find out what works, at least as a writer. I have been writing for decades, and I still read to find out what works, especially in the genres I enjoy reading and writing and the new work just emerging.

So, let’s look at feedback from all angles.

  1. How do we deliver helpful feedback?

A. Comment on the good qualities of the work first. What hit the mark! What line or phrase do you wish you had written? Where was voice particularly clear? What helped you understand the characters better? You understand what I am saying. Say the things that you hope someone will say about your work. You want to put the writer at ease so they can really listen to the rest of what you have to say. You comments should help them see what IS working and where a few or even one change can make the piece into what they want.

Remember, your goal is to remove any fear from the process and to be motivated to keep writing

B. We need to know the writer’s goals to give proper feedback. Therefore, ask the genre they are working in order to give relevant help. We want the writer to know we are a team and our job as someone giving feedback is to help them achieve their writerly goals. We must do as much as we can to put them at ease.

C. Our job, when it is our turn to give feedback, is to remember we are not to work on everything we see as wrong. Pick one or two things to comment on, but do give ways to fix what you have found faulty.

D. We do not speak from the Know-it all place. We are still learners. So, we may ask for something to be repeated to make sure the comment is relevant.

E. If you see a writer making a recurring mistake, perhaps using the passive too much or using too many dialogue tags, don’t address every example. Simply relate that you see a recurring error in relation to dialogue tags, and give them one example and how to fix it.

2. What do you do with feedback?

A. Listen carefully, remembering what can I learn from this feedback?

B. If you react physically, feel yourself tensing up, ask yourself why you reacted so strongly? Sometimes feedback can bring back other occasions where you felt criticized. Remember, this is a helpful partnership in which you are engaged.

C. Your next step will be most helpful in the long run. Ask yourself first what your next steps might be. If you feel at a loss to know where to go from there, ask for help. Remember, this is all about improvement, not finding fault.

3. What do you do with what you perceive as negative feedback?

  1. Listen carefully. Do not interrupt the speaker or anyone else who is speaking.
  2. Do not apologize for the way you wrote something.
  3. Take a deep breath and pay attention to your breathing. Pay attention to your body language. Physically relax your body. You cannot learn when you are physically all wound up.
  4. Thank the person for their feedback and then you might ask if they can repeat what they said so that you can write it down. This helps you make sure you understand what they tried to say, and it gives them a second chance to get it right.
  5. Your response should not be about how you felt, but it should be about what you understand them to have said. You both want that to be correct or it will not give the desired result.
  6. Ask for time to respond so that you can think through what was said
  7. Remember, that negative feedback is better than no feedback.

4. How do you apply feedback?

  1. Make sure you are totally clear on the issue being addressed.
  2. If you need to, ask for examples to help you understand.
  3. Request time to follow up.
  4. Break down feedback into tasks to complete. Write them down.
  5. Ask for help thinking it through and whether the feedback is accurate. You might do this outside of class if it is not clarified in class.
  6. Focus on the positive aspects of the conversation.

More Resources:

How to Give Constructive Writing Feedback

Karen HertzbergUpdated on August 13, 2020WRITING TIPS

Happy Writing!

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