The give and take of Feedback

Picture of glasses on a bookFeedback from readers is worth its weight in gold. Or maybe platinum or Yttrium. Isn’t it? Well, maybe. And then again, maybe not.

Whenever I do crits I’m at pains to make the point that what I’m giving is my point of view, my opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s up to the writer to act on what s/he is given to work with. I guess we all know that but sometimes it’s very easy to respond to somebody’s comment just because we can. I know in my case, I over-edited the opening chapter of Die a Dry Death because of a series of comments on Authonomy. Fortunately, I had an editor who suggested I put it back the way it was.

One thing to remember about opinions is that some really are worth more than others. People who read the genre, writers who have a similar style, people who’ll take the time to read thoroughly and think through their feedback. And of course, those who’ll be honest without being derogatory.

But there are some types of feedback I will take note of every time – what I do, having taken note, is another matter. Please, please tell me if you read a section of my work and think…

Time line: ‘Eh? How’s that possible? The hero only just left Timbuktu.”

Plot holes: ‘Er… how could she possibly know that?’

Out of character: ‘He’s going to do WHAT? You’ve gotta be kidding.’

Implausible: ‘That’s a bit hard to believe.’

Transition: ‘Eh? How did we get here?’

The most valuable feedback of all? What you get back from an agent who passes on a full but takes the time to tell you what they did and did not like. That really is Yttrium.


About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 25 July 2010, in On writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Yes’m. Those are really good comments.
    Not so helpful: “deepen the character.” “Show don’t tell” and my favorite so far, “This just doesn’t seem credible.”

    Ouch more ouch and how the hell do you fix? So some feedback I’d rather not have. Just gimme the stuff I can work with, right?
    I like the look of your blog, layout looks just like mine!

  2. Well, pepes can say what they like. But some I will ignore and some I’ll do some furious navel gazing, burn folk in effigy and then wonder ‘why did they say that’? And sometimes I’ll get a revelation.

  3. I for one find feedback incredibly helpful, primarily because English is and always be my second language. As ideas go however, I learned the hard way that as author I know better. Oh, and being consistent and not all over the show like a drunken sailor. Umm, yeeah I’ll stop talking now ^_^

  4. I love your points to take note of. When I crit I try not to re-write a story in my style, because I’ve seen exactly that come from other writers. The piece of critiquing I find most difficult to understand is ‘this feels like a first draft’ -what, really clunky!? I wish people would elaborate when they give that one.

  5. Writing is such a solitary profession; often you feel like you’re stuck in a vacuum, and feedback from the outside world is incredibly useful. It shines fresh light on that scene that’s been driving you nuts for a week, reassures you that no, you’re not crazy, it really doesn’t work/is better than you thought it was, and points out the slips and mis-steps that were so obvious you just couldn’t see ’em. I for one would be lost without it.

    Assuming, of course, that you can trust the source ;o)

  6. Those ‘big picture’ points in feedback are the most valuable of all. They determine flow and pacing and whether or not the reader can fall into your story because of the writing style and then stay stuck there because nothing interrupts them. You’re absolutely right – feedback like that is priceless. It can make or break a story.

  7. Tricia Gilbey

    I’m going back and revising my book now as you know, Greta – and trying to put it in first person, amalgamate characters etc means I really need fresh big picture eyes on it to make sure there aren’t too many plot holes. At least before it had been read by several people so I knew it didn’t have those. And I’m driving myself mad, sitting on my hands trying not to dump too much back story in too early because I’m that much further on in the narrative myself now (into book 2)…it was relatively straightforward writing the first 5 drafts, but now I’ve run out of people to read it. Readers are like gold dust – especially readers with fresh eyes.

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