Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Constructive Feedback

Ever been asked to give feedback to an essay, a story, or a novel-in-making?
I bet the answer is yes, many times yes, whether you’re a teacher, a parent, a writer, or someone who knows someone applying for something. Bet you’ve asked others for such, also.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I thought I’d expound on what sort of feedback I find useful on the receiving end. By extension this post also touched on what feedback is not helpful, which, ahmm, is the opposite of what is. All right, this last sentence could be revised. 
Feedback isn’t helpful unless it is specific.

Example: “Where aunt Edna doesn’t care for the soup little Pooky made, you could make it a lot funnier. Aunt Edna could be trying to not show her distaste by contorting her face in order to swallow that swill, while Pooky lists the ingredients.”
{Not helpful: “The story could be funnier.”}



Example #2: “Use evocative and active verbs, such as a play on “soup.” Think spit, swallow, swerve, spin, stir, slam, slide, strike.”
{Not helpful: “Use varied verbs.”}


Example #3: “The part where Pooky is thinking about how good her soup will turn out to be could be cut. One sentence showing her doing the Soup Sashay says it, and more visually.”
{Not helpful: “Some parts can be cut.”}


 I think you get the idea. Specific, even including suggestions, is helpful. The writer doesn’t have to accept the specific suggestions, but it is clearer as to what/where/why/when help is needed. As to the who, that’s a given.

15 comments:

  1. Very true. Vague, general feedback is not particularly helpful.

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  2. And specific suggestions with Blueboard emoticons are even better :)

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  3. Yes, this is so true!

    Oh, I'm answering your question about conflicting feedback on my blog tomorrow. :)

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  4. I agree that specific feedback is better than general, but I'm not so sure about suggesting specific changes. I used to do that too much with my critiques, and I've learned to cut back on it. It's the other person's book and I shouldn't be rewriting it for him or her. (Unless the writer asks for it.)

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    1. I don't often take the specific suggestions, but they always serve to clarify what the reader found problematic. When I do critiques for others, I am NEVER touchy about my specific suggestions being followed. The book is not mine. I just hope they help make my point, and even that point may be ignored. OK by me!

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  5. True. But I will admit that, on occasion, very specific feedback with suggested changes have made me feel like I couldn't use those particular suggestions (i.e., I have to come up with my own variation, and maybe once their idea is fixed in my brain, it's hard to do that), or, in the case of the suggestions coming from an editor, I feel I have to use them, but the story no longer feels like it's truly mine any more.

    But, in general, I agree with you totally. And my experiences are with pbs which have so few words anyway, if the author uses someone else's suggestions, it can be a big percentage of the text. I wouldn't think it would be as much a problem with a CB or novel.

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  6. My favorite is when the person offering the feedback gives me something to think about; they don't necessarily tell me exactly what's wrong, or offer suggestions re fixing it, but ask questions of the what if? variety - helps get my mind out of the track it's stuck in after reading a manuscript a thousand times or so. And in general, the longer I'm at this writing thing, the more I love the chance to have anybody (other than me with my blinders on) read my writing.

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    1. I had one beta reader who used the "WHAT IFs" and I loved it. These are basically evocative suggestions.

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  7. People are so touchy upon receiving critiqueing that even the best intended suggestions are looked upon as harsh criticism.

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  8. I like it when my critique partner gives me something to think about, something to explore deeper. On my part, I try to be as specific as I can even with the lines I like (I let him know why I like it and why it works etc).

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  9. Yes, pointing out exactly what needs fixing is so important whether there's a solution offered or not. To me, the worst sort of critique is 'nice job' and nothing else!

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  10. Yes! Gushing praise or vague critical comments don't move the project (or the writer) forward. We need specifics!

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