This month, we’re looking at the Response step of writing, having people to respond to your draft in order to get feedback.
Why is response and feedback important?
This is helpful for several reasons. The number one purpose is for another pair of eyes to see what you can’t. As writers, we often see the idea that’s in our heads, not what’s actually written down. Plus, others can more easily find repeated words, awkward sentences, and that kind of stuff.
The number two purpose is to see how others respond to your writing. Maybe that description isn’t as clear as you hoped, or that character isn’t as likeable as you thought, or the word choice isn’t a good fit for your intended audience. Critique partners and beta readers can pick up on that kind of stuff and let you know.
The third purpose for response is that you also grow as a writer when you give feedback to other writers. It helps develop a keen eye that will allow you to notice more things in your own writing and add to your own toolbox of writing styles. And joining a writing community means giving as well as taking. Helping fellow writers with critiques is a great way to do that.
When do you ask for responses?
We usually think doing of this step after the first draft. But it’s also a good step to repeat. I often get feedback from people after each major draft. On my last book, I got critique partners and beta readers to respond to my writing in five rounds. (Not the same people each time—I don’t want to wear out my welcome! But I stopped to get feedback that many times.)
Who do you find to respond to your writing?
There are several ways to approach this. Many people look for writers who are at or near the same stage of their writing journey. It’s also helpful to have at least one person a little ahead of you to help you grow. You can look for people who write or read the same kinds of things as you do. It’s also helpful to have people who read other kinds of things, to get a new perspective. Above all, find people you’re comfortable with.
When I have beta readers read the whole book, I look for writers who are good at seeing the whole picture and finding plot holes and inconsistencies, in addition to “expert readers” (Linda Sue Park’s term) who can give feedback on how I am describing characters from experiences different from my own. I want my writing to be fair and respectful to people of marginalized communities.
How do you structure the response process?
Each critique group or set of partners can come up with their own process. I like to share the chapter or selection online, make written comments, then meet online or in person to discuss. Sometimes the discussions help us bounce ideas of each other and find great solutions to writing problems.
What do you ask them to respond to/how do you ask for feedback?
It’s important to give both positive and negative feedback. Writers need to know what works as much as what needs to be revised. Plus, positive feedback make it easier to swallow the tougher critiques. Outside of that, you might ask a few general questions, like, “Is this engaging?” and “Is it clear?” Then you might ask something specific to fit your writing process like “Any places I need to add more?” or “What descriptions need to be cut or pared down?”
Now go out and write! And when you’re ready, get responses from fellow writers, too.
Please comment if you have any questions. Take care. See you next month.