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Posts Tagged ‘feedback’

 

Beth Nguyen’s thoughtful article on writing workshops appeared at Literary Hub this week. She describes how her approach to critique changed when she began teaching nonfiction, work in which the integration of context and author with the text is more obvious than is sometimes the case with other genres.

Especially interesting to me was the way this reshaped feedback (emphasis mine):

The workshoppers, in turn, are asked to do less prescribing (I want to see more of this; I want this or that to happen; I didn’t want that character to be here) and more questioning. Why did you use first-person? How important is the sister character supposed to be? Instead of a typical old-school workshop comment such as “I want to see more about the mother,” there’s a question: “We don’t see much about the mother—how important of a character is she?” The former is a demand; the latter is an opening.

Even in settings where time or other constraints make full-blown conversation among participants impractical, feedback phrased this way invites reflection rather than defense. We best serve one another when our comments encourage thinking about the art and process of writing, from choices and techniques to audience and intention.

Implementing this in our own critique practices will require some adjustments, for both respondents and authors. But it seems like work worth doing if it allows each writer “to leave feeling heard and feeling motivated to keep working and revising, with ideas (rather than demands) in hand.”

“Unsilencing the Writing Workshop,” by Beth Nguyen
https://lithub.com/unsilencing-the-writing-workshop/

 

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Irish novelist Catherine Ryan Howard (a.k.a. Catherine Caffeinated) is nearing the end of a blockbuster blogging bonanza to generate excitement for the North American release of her suspense/thriller, Distress Signals, on 2 February. Her blog is an excellent source of information and ideas about getting published as she has experience with both traditional and self-publishing.

Earlier this week she posted a thoughtful discourse about receiving and responding to editorial feedback, which led me to search the blog’s archives for previous posts about editing. To save you the trouble of a similar search, here’s an annotated list of relevant links.

Why hire an editor?
https://catherineryanhoward.com/2013/03/28/why-hire-an-editor/
Guest post that explains how editing is not about whether your writing is good but about making sure you put your very best work out there.

Structural editing for self-publishers
https://catherineryanhoward.com/2013/04/04/structural-editing-for-self-publishers/
Guest post with useful information about structural (also called developmental) editing and suggestions for how to stay on budget without forgoing necessary feedback.

Copy-editors: what they really do
https://catherineryanhoward.com/2013/10/15/copy-editors-what-they-really-do/
Guest post that describes copy-editing as both comprehensive and indispensable in preparing a manuscript for publication.

Proofreading explained
https://catherineryanhoward.com/2013/10/17/proofreading-explained/
Guest post that explains how proofreading differs from other stages of manuscript preparation, with tips about ways to make the most of this highly specific editorial function.

How do you know when editorial feedback is right?
https://catherineryanhoward.com/2017/01/23/how-do-you-know-when-editorial-feedback-is-right/
A frank discussion of the joys and agonies of the editing process.

Be sure to look through the comments that follow these posts as well, because they contain pertinent questions and further discussion.

Here’s to always putting forth the very best work we can!

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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.

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