You’re in a writing workshop and your recently-drafted chapter is up for review. Students offer their reactions. Let’s listen in:
“I love this. I love what you’ve done with your character.”
“I didn’t get it. Was she trying to pick that guy up or what?”
“This would make a great short story or a performance piece. It doesn’t have to be a just a chapter in a novel.”
Feedback is vital to the creative process. But inept critique from the wrong sources can squash your confidence or worse – dissuade you from continuing with your book.
Where do you go for constructive criticism? I’ve written elsewhere about how to design the feedback process so it’s useful to you.
Here I illustrate four groups you might consider asking for help writing your novel or non-fiction book.
These are your fellow writers, the people in your writing classes, or your writing buddies. Even if they’re not writing in the same genre, style or subject matter, these relationships can provide:
- a sounding board for your process
- a forum to share resources for developing your craft and publishing your work
- accountability partners to help you stay on track.
Most importantly, peer relationships help you feel ‘gotten’. Being understood is vital to writers and artists who are creating something from nothing.
My peer relationships helped me and made the writing journey much more pleasant. The friendships I developed at La Muse writing retreat in France and writing buddyships I had in Boulder with Suzanne, Ann and Dorothy were all invaluable to my book.
Mentors and teachers
Writing instructors, mentors or professional editors have most likely written a book themselves. They deeply understand the craft of writing. They will be able to assess your work as a whole and offer critical and constructive insights.
After an initial novel writing workshop in 1999, I relied on professional editors to guide my work. Hiring someone to critique my manuscript was for me like taking a master class in novel writing. I did this at least four times in twelve years.
These are people who won’t necessarily offer a critical review of your work. Instead, they’ll respond as someone who would ultimately buy and read your book. This is the person you are writing for.
Once you’ve established your core message and content, it can be helpful to pass it by your ideal reader. Do at least two drafts before showing it to a person in your audience.
Former bookstore owner and avid reader Valarie read drafts of my novel. Her perspective helped me see holes in the narrative and how I could increase the dramatic tension.
Friends and family
Your people love you. But they may not ‘get’ your work. They have a specific perspective of you and perhaps a hidden or obvious agenda. They may not yet resonate with your AUTHORity.
Here’s some of the feedback I’ve gotten from my loved ones:
“Why not just let this go and start another project?”
“The first chapter is a real downer!”
“This was a real slog!”
These comments came from highly intelligent people who love me, believe in me and wish the best for me. They were not trying to hurt me.
But they had no clue about how to give constructive feedback.
The people who matter most to us have the biggest influence on our actions. While drafting your book, I advise not sharing it with friends or family.
So which is right for you?
When you’re just beginning to write a book, you will likely opt for writing classes that teach you how to write. Be sure to learn how to filter out useless or misguided criticism that classmates may offer and focus on the teacher’s input.
As you progress in your book and solidify your message and confidence, work with other professionals and your audience to ensure your book is hitting the mark you intend it to.
What’s been most useful in helping you claim your AUTHORity? Let us know in a comment below to share what’s helped you the most.
To get solid support and make real progress on your book – fiction or non-fiction – join me for the Claim Your AUTHORity retreat this July. I’ve helped hundreds of writers claim their AUTHORity, respecting them, their material and their unique process.
The early registration discount ends this Friday. We’ve got a limited number of spaces available for this profound workshop. Claim your spot with us at the Sylvia Beach hotel on the Oregon coast, and claim your AUTHORity.
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