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:
- Put personal preferences aside. It may not be your genre or preferred point of view, but neither of these factors should influence your comments.
- 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?
- 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?
- Remember you are there to critique the writing not the writer. Wherever possible, avoid saying “you” when giving constructive criticism.
- Preface your comments as your opinion. After all, that’s what it is no matter how experienced a writer you are.
- Provide kind and constructive criticism. Make specific comments and provide suggestions to help.
- Encourage discussion and provide positive reinforcement Brainstorm alternatives and solutions while encouraging the writer to make their own suggestions.
- Maintain balanced feedback. No-one can learn everything in one go.
- 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.