How to give writing group feedback

How to give writing group feedback
I’m a huge fan of writing groups.

I’ve always found being a member of one both motivating and helpful. In the course of my writing life I’ve belonged to many critique groups both face-to-face and on-line. Here are my thoughts on how to provide effective writing group feedback:

  1. Put personal preferences aside. It may not be your genre or preferred point of view, but neither of these factors should influence your comments.
  2. Focus on the task at hand. It’s all about the words, the characters, the story development. What isn’t working? What doesn’t flow? What seems to be missing?
  3. Always begin with a positive comment. There’s always something positive you can say, even if the writing isn’t very polished. Perhaps you liked the idea or something about the main character? Or a phrase in a description?
  4. Remember you are there to critique the writing not the writer. Wherever possible, avoid saying “you” when giving constructive criticism.
  5. Preface your comments as your opinion. After all, that’s what it is no matter how experienced a writer you are.
  6. Provide kind and constructive criticism. Make specific comments and provide suggestions to help.
  7. Encourage discussion and provide positive reinforcement Brainstorm alternatives and solutions while encouraging the writer to make their own suggestions.
  8. Maintain balanced feedback. No-one can learn everything in one go.
  9. Show that you care. Remember it’s about constructive criticism and support. Be aware of the effect of your feedback. Sometimes a poorly written piece has had many revisions and it’s difficult for a writer to realise it still requires substantial work.

For a more light-hearted look at offering feedback, check out this post by Lee Kofman at Writers Victoria.

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