Anna and I talk about our experience of giving and receiving feedback. Here are some recommendations:
- Create a safe environment to give feedback. Bear in mind that some people’s history won’t allow them to feel safe, no matter how sensitively you approach a subject. If you are a writer, no doubt you’ll have experienced imposter syndrome at some time or other, which makes it’s easy to have empathy with others.
- Be positive as well as critical if possible. It’s essential, to be honest, but you are encouraging someone to continue with a creative endeavour.
- Be specific – that’s only one of the reasons why family and friends offering feedback are not always the best option. They often will not be able to identify what makes a manuscript work or fail.
- Stick to observation over interpretation. Observation is concerned with what and how much and has nothing to do with the why of a subject. Interpretation adds opinions, remarks and judgment to the observation. Although sometimes I want to hear another person’s opinion and so ask for it.
- Give direction, not just edits, especially with an early draft. Sometimes it is impossible to turn off our inner editor but think about fulfilling the purpose of the exercise.
- Read the whole thing before making comments. Questions can be answered, and the piece become clearer by getting the entire picture.
- Asking questions can help the writer to gain clarity.
- Don’t nit-pick unless that is what you have been asked to do.
- It’s a critique, not a review, and the aim is to help someone improve.
Giving feedback is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. To be able to make the best use of feedback, you need to be able to identify what is and isn’t useful. That’s why it’s worth joining a writing group (in person or online) or getting together with other writers to support each other.
We would love to hear from you. Let us know if you have any questions or comments.