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3 Tips when Asking for Feedback


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Know what you want

Most writers reach a point when our work is as good as it is going to get. The only way it will get better is to turn it over to our critique partners or to hire an editor.

That sounds pretty straightforward, but recently I’ve seen numerous twitter threads from freelance editors.  These threads stood out because these are people I’ve worked with.  One editor made a simple suggestion about changing the relationship between two characters in my story. I had to sit back and consider the changes that would echo throughout the whole story. They were amazing.

Yet she and other editors sometimes get nasty-grams from clients.  Nasty-gram is my own term for a lengthy e-mail or text.  It goes on for multiple screens, is accusatory, and . . . obviously . . . nasty.  Think of the howler that Ron gets from his mother in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Sure, we’ve all felt like writing a howler.  After all, if you write and you receive feedback, you periodically get feedback that is way off the mark. Fortunately, you minimize the chances this will happen.

Be Specific

When you hand over your work, be specific about what you want.  When I give my critique group an early draft to see if the story premise works, I tell them that is what I need.  They shouldn’t line edit.  This isn’t the time to correct punctuation.  I just need big picture feedback.

If I want help proofing something, I need to be clear about that. Check my grammar and punctuation.  Help me turn in clean copy.  This is when I need to use the term “proof” and not the terms “edit” or “critique.”

Be Selective

Knowing what you want is step one.  Improve your chances of getting it by asking the right person.  One of my critique partners cannot critique fantasy.  Me?  I’m useless if you are writing a board book.  If you are going to pay an editor, check out the services the person offers.  Ask questions.

If what you want isn’t what they offer, they may very well tell you that.  Not every fit is perfect, and you want someone who can do what you need.

Be Accepting

If you ask someone to review your work, you have to expect constructive criticism.  After all, that’s what you asked for and that’s what most people are going to try to give you.  There’s nothing worse than asking for feedback and getting, “This is great.  I really like it.”

Receive the feedback in the spirit it was intended. Most people want to be helpful.  This means they aren’t sitting with your work thinking, “I really need to mess this up. How can I completely destroy her plot?” 

Read the feedback and then go chill out.  That means get away from your desk.  Play a video game.  Go for a walk.  Bake something.  In a day or two, look at it again.  You may be surprised at what is now obvious that you simply couldn’t see before.

If you still feel the need to howl, reach out to your friends.  Your fellow writers will understand, because sometimes the feedback really does miss the mark.

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on March 6, 2022).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins March 6, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins March 6, 2022). 

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