This is the most useless piece of feedback you will ever receive as a writer: “I liked it.”
Even if the reader is being honest, it doesn’t say anything about what is working in your story. It leaves you clueless about how to make your work stronger.
In this article, I am going to give you five tips that will help you give your fellow authors feedback that is useful and empowering.
No Negative Feedback?
At CatholicAuthor, we have a rule that might seem a little bit strange. You are not allowed to give members negative feedback.
I know what you’re thinking:
- Shouldn’t I be honest?
- How are they going to improve?
- What if the piece I am reviewing contains offensive content? Shouldn’t I tell them?
- Isn’t criticism an act of tough love?
The answer to all of these questions is “yes”. But you can give honest and direct feedback without being negative.
Tip #1. Be Specific.
The reason “I liked it” is useless feedback is because it is not specific. Let’s say you did like the story you read. What did you like about it? Maybe you found the characters relatable. Maybe the tension kept you going. Maybe the images and descriptions popped off the page. Helping the author understand what aspects of the story are working builds their confidence and helps them to further develop their strengths.
What if you didn’t like it? Ask yourself why. Did the characters need development? Did you start losing interest? When did you start losing interest? Were the descriptions too long? Could the verbs be stronger? Being specific helps the author identify exactly what they need to work on to improve.
Tip #2. Clarify
Before giving peers feedback, ask them what kind of feedback they want. They may only want to know if the general concept is interesting. Maybe they aren’t ready for tips on sentence construction yet. Asking what kind of feedback they want, will ensure you provide notes that are focused and useful.
Tip #3. Focus
Try not to give the author too many notes at once. This might be overwhelming and leave them feeling discouraged. Instead, pick the one or two things that you think would improve their writing the most. You might be able to go back and provide more notes later, after they’ve implemented the first batch.
Tip #4. Use “and” instead of “but”
Take a look at these two sentences:
- The plot is gripping but the characters are shallow.
- The plot is gripping and we should develop the characters more.
Which of the two do you find more empowering?
Human beings have an evolutionary quirk commonly referred to as the negativity bias. Basically what that means is, if I give you ten compliments and one criticism you are going to forget the compliments and only remember the criticism.
In the above example, the word but makes the author tense for a criticism. However, the word and encourages them while helping them understand exactly what needs to be fixed.
Tip #5. Share your thoughts
Note any strong feelings or expectations you have while you are reading through the story.
For example, Did you find a particular line funny? Note it. The author may or may not have intended for that line to be funny. If they did, then they know their emotional beats are coming across. If they didn’t, then they can try and figure out why it might have come across that way.
There you have it-five tips for giving empowering feedback!
Do you find these tips useful? What would you add to this list?
Guest: Katy Campbell: Iam a Catholic humorist and lover of fairy tales. I prefer the gory originals to the squeaky clean Disney retellings but will gladly consume both. I graduated from John Paul the Great Catholic University in 2012 with a B.S. in Communications Media and recently left my real job to pursue a career as a starving author. I’ve published three books and numerous short stories which you can find on my website: katysfables.com