How to give and receive feedback
The one rule
Don’t be a dick.
We’re all humans – or highly advanced robots from the future pretending to be humans, just trying to blend in and live a normal life – so there’s really NO NEED to get into internet arguments on a nice little supportive group like this.
Plus, we’re all writers. Which means we are delicate, creative, angst-ridden creatures, clutching to fictional worlds with every fibre of our caffeine riddled beings. Sharing your work/ideas/opinions on writing can be scary. So respect that. And when you’re giving or receiving criticism, keep these guidelines in mind:
How to give constructive criticism
If you’re critiquing someone else’s writing, don’t tear it apart, make things personal, or offer vague and unhelpful statements like “meh, didn’t do it for me” or “I just don’t like [insert genre here]” or “needs more work”.
If you genuinely have nothing constructive to say, then don’t say anything.
If you have thoughts – good or bad – then find a way to frame them so they’re of use to the writer.
First, try to pinpoint a couple of positive examples, such as: realistic characterisation, a unique turn of phrase, snappy dialogue, or a good central premise.
There is always something good to say about any writing. ALWAYS. Even if it’s something like: “Dinosaur erotica isn’t usually my thing but I appreciated the detailed description of the Stegosaurus’ quivering thighs.”
Next, instead of pointing out aaaaall the ways the writer went wrong, politely suggest some improvements (eg: “I got a little confused about the Mesozoic timeframe – maybe you could add some more details so this is clearer”) or ask questions to jumpstart the writer into developing their work further (eg: “Could you expand the backstory behind the sexual tension between the Triceratops and the Velociraptor? It feels like they have a bit of a history…”
A general rule of thumb is to offer a ‘shit sandwich’ – something nice, followed by constructive criticism, finished with a final slice of niceness on top.
And if in doubt, ask questions.
How to receive constructive criticism
If you’re posting work for critique, be gracious and take all and any advice that’s offered – even if you disagree with it; even if you don’t use it; even if you’re swearing at us behind your laptop screen.
Remember: it’s not personal. It’s not a criticism of you.
You’re here to improve. And everyone has a different view.
That doesn’t mean they’re right – not everyone’s gonna like your work – but they may still have something useful to tell you.
Sometimes a critique is only useful after the initial sting has faded and you’ve had a chance to take a step away from your writing and view it objectively.
You might return to it in a few weeks and realise that annoying piece of criticism you totally disregarded was actually right and you DO need add more emotional depth to your Tyrannosaurus…