Receive better feedback by giving better feedback.
Writers love receiving feedback. Really, we do, but giving feedback as a writer is a lot harder.
That said, giving feedback is an essential skill that we need to develop as writers. It is a big part of the 12SS challenge. We have to be able to evaluate a piece of writing and say why it does or does not work for us. We have to be able to do this for others, but most importantly (and this is the hardest) for our own work.
We join writing communities for a sense of camaraderie, but also for the feedback. It’s hard to learn from “Nice one” or “Cool story”. It’s great to hear that someone liked your story, but it’s the improvements we’re after.
The first online class I taught for 12 Short Stories was The Ultimate Short Story Checklist.
It is a checklist that I developed over many years and it helps me to focus my stories, but more than that it reminds me of all the awesome writing tools at my disposal. I also use it as a guide when I evaluate and do appraisals for short stories. Like any part of the writing process, this a skill that you can develop.
I have turned the online class into a downloadable, printable workbook. The online classes are great and I love teaching them, but given timezones and connectivity, it is not always possible for everyone to join. I hope this workbook will be the solution. It is also something you can keep and use as a reference. You can print the checklist itself as many times as you need to and use it to evaluate your stories.
A checklist can help you to learn how to critique a story. If you have not given feedback before or if you are unsure of the quality of your feedback, a checklist can help you identify literary devices and provide a framework for your critique. It can also help you recognise when a writer has deliberately subverted a genre or technique because our stories don’t have to follow the rules, but we need to know when the rules have been broken and if it was deliberate. You can apply this to your own work as well.
Some tips for giving feedback:
What if I like everything they wrote?
Yes, sometimes a story is good and we can offer no suggestions for improvements, but then it is important to state what we liked and why we liked it. It’s about learning to identify techniques and figuring how the writer did what they did.
What if I did not like what they wrote?
Kindness is a non-negotiable in my world. There is always something to compliment. Find it.
When you offer feedback on a perceived negative your tone is important. Instead of “I didn’t understand anything” try “I have some questions” or instead of “I don’t like this” try “This isn’t my usual kind of reading and/but…” This, by the way, is not writing advice, but a life skill that I am hoping you have mastered.
Not everyone is in the same place.
This is hard. When you evaluate another writer’s work you don’t know how experienced they are. Seasoned writers, who really want to improve, want serious feedback, but newer writers might not be as confident. Regardless of the experience level of the writer, it is important to give kind, constructive feedback. Using a checklist can help you with your critique, especially if you are a newbie.
Remember when you critique a story you are holding someone’s dream in your hands. Kindness costs you nothing.
The Ultimate Short Story Checklist Workbook will help you write better stories and give better feedback so you can receive better feedback.