Paranormal romance author Jami Gold’s blog (http://jamigold.com/blog/) is chock-full of great ideas and tools for writers. Her latest post on beta reading (Introducing the Beta Reading Worksheet!) offers tips that apply to critique groups as well. She lists a number of phrases that can help shape feedback into something both concrete and useful to the author. Here are a few of my favorites:
- I don’t understand….
- The detail seems….
- The (character, setting, etc.) comes across as (feisty, depressing, important, etc.)
- This (detail, phrase, etc.) conveys (irritation, happiness, etc.)
- It’s not clear how (Sally got to the store, John sawed down the tree, etc.)
- I would expect a character (with such and such a trait) to do/not do (such and such)
- I’m confused about (what happens here, this character’s motivation, etc.)
- I really liked…. *it’s very important to identify strengths!*
She specifically notes that “why” questions tend to bring out defensive responses. For that matter, questions of any kind encourage dialogue with the author, which isn’t the objective in a critique group. The author needs to be able to hear everything the group has to say, and answering questions takes us out of a listening mindset.
The post includes a worksheet that could be used by writers returning to their work for revision as well as by beta readers. Accompanying the worksheet is perhaps the most useful advice for any writer to keep in mind: take what works and don’t worry about the rest.