Earlier this year, I was accepted into a project that gives six playwrights the opportunity to get feedback on a play. We meet once a month to learn from professional writers and talk about our texts, all the while writing new drafts to make them better. Here’s what I’ve learned about feedback:
1. Others will see what you have missed.
Everyone’s experiences and lives are different, so getting feedback in a group will show you different interpretations of your text. You’ll get access to worlds and opinions you couldn’t otherwise reach, which is extremely valuable. I’ve learned most of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer from feedback.
2. First, accept all feedback.
Writing is a sensitive art, I know. When you first get feedback, try to listen to every opinion. They’re all possible interpretations. If someone points out that they didn’t understand your text, don’t get too defensive. See if there’s something you can do about it. Also, sometimes it’s better to take feedback quietly. Don’t start defending your work out loud.
3. Next, choose what feedback you want to accept.
If you’re in a group, there’s always someone who doesn’t like all the things that are crucial to your text. When you’ve got your feedback, really go through what advice you want to use to make your text better and what’s just trying to write a different text. Someone told you they didn’t like first person narrators in your story – fine, but why should you change them? Remember that feedback is the subjective point of view of one person.
I was once in a group where one person said he didn’t believe my story and that my characters were cold and didn’t care about each other. I had a blast watching the other group members defend my work, saying they read it in an exactly opposite way. Stick to what you think is important! Most readers will respond to that.
4. Defend your text on paper.
You don’t have to explain yourself out loud when getting feedback. Instead, rewrite your text to show what advice you want to take on and what you want to discard. If you like the first person narrator, keep it. If you think yes, my story should have more conflict, write more conflict. Your work will reflect your decisions and make it better – and that’s why we give and get feedback.
5. Give respectful feedback.
This will make an entire post later, but in short: give your feedback well. Point out the positive things; give general comments on issues that could be developed; point out some small details you both like and wish the writer to improve; return to summarise the good in the text. Ask questions and give broad suggestions instead of saying do this, not that. Remember that you’re giving critique on a text that’s important to the writer – treat them both with respect.
Give and get feedback well, and your text will become so much better.