Thursday, November 15, 2012

How to Gain Quality Feedback from Your Critique Partners

In my last post, I covered How to Pick a Good Critique Partner. Today I will cover what to do next to gain quality feedback from that partner, communication being the key factor:

Be specific about the kind of feedback you want. State what you want and when you want it, and be as clear as possible. This is important because if you give your critique partners little-to-no direction, then their comments will likely reflect this. For example, if you’re uncertain about your dialogue, then ask them if your dialogue works. You could even ask something as vague as, ‘I know something isn’t working in this scene, but I don’t know what it might be’. Note: don’t ask for your partners to look for too many things. A giant list of questions about your work will only overwhelm them.

State the genre and the target market. Don’t let your critique partners go in blind when you hand over your manuscript. It’s important they know what genre and market you are aiming for. What may work for a crime novel, may not work for a fantasy. Likewise, what may work for adult fiction, may not work for young adult. Knowing these details about your story will help your critique partners focus their comments.

Be specific about when you want the feedback. Be sure to give your critique partners plenty of time to go through your manuscript without rushing. However, without setting a finish date, you could be waiting a long time.

Nurture open communication. This is so you can easily clarify any comments your critique partners make. A relationship between writer and critiquer is far stronger if both parties feel comfortable with each other. There’ll be a better chance of gaining truthful comments, not comments the critiquer thinks the writer wants to hear.

Use more than one critique partner. Three critique partners will give you a clearer overview of your work than just one. What one person doesn’t like in your manuscript, two others may love. When there is a conflict in the feedback, I tend to go with the majority.

Approach your feedback with an open mind. Sometimes writers won’t recognize fantastic feedback because deep down they don’t want to hear their baby needs more work. While critiques are simply opinions, if you’ve picked your partners well, then most of those opinions will be educated. It’s worth listening to them. This doesn’t mean you should treat those opinions or suggestions like the law. Weigh everything you hear and then decide for yourself whether you agree, but do it with an open mind.

Do you struggle to get helpful feedback?

J Taylor Publishing is giving away five copies of the Make Believe anthology. If you'd like to hop on over for a chance at a copy, then click HERE! But be quick because the offer ends on November 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm Eastern Time

57 comments:

  1. I'm specific, I give them a date, and I use three critique partners - score!
    Yes, they get a list of what I want and where I think I am currently sucking.
    Never had problems with the feedback. Almost all of it is spot-on. One of my critique partners always has great ideas, so I keep bouncing things off him as I'm working on edits.
    And snark is always appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent tips, Lynda! Communication with critters goes such a long way. The last two tips are particularly helpful. Don't view critter feedback as the final word on your story. That helps with the open mindedness, I've found. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for this now. Today I just attended my first critique group here in PA and I'm excited to hear from them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so wonderful, Terri! I hope the group is a great match for you.

      Delete
  4. Excellent tips! I agree that at least a couple people need to review your work--with three, you get a tie breaker, LOL!

    Being specific also is key.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Excellent advice, Lynda. I always struggle with this.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think it's a great idea to give specifics when asking someone to read your manuscript. I don't think I usually do this unless I have one specific question. These days, my manuscript is omniscient YA, so I'll be asking critique partners if it works or they think I'm smoking something.

    While I used to use the same critique partners, I find it varies now. Anyone who has ever helped me had made my manuscripts stronger, even if some of the feedback was hard to hear at the time.

    (P.S. You are an awesome critique partner!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I try to stick to the same ones because I understand where their comments are coming from. Makes it easier to weigh the suggestions. But of course it's not always possible, so yes, I occasionally branch out.

      Thanks, Theresa :)

      Delete
  7. It helps if you're having a problem and tell your cp's and/or editor, so they can help you make it less sucky. :)

    Working together over time also improves the relationship and the feedback.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. absolutely! That's a great a point about working over time to improve the relationship and thus the feedback.

      Delete
  8. Terrific advice, Lynda, particularly using several CPs/betas and being open about communication. I don't usually tell my CPs what to look for. I'm curious what will stick out to them. Great post! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's interesting, I just got some feedback from someone, and I really didn't appreciate just how right he was about a couple of things until I did the rewrite and tried his ideas on for size. But this was from someone with whom I've developed a strong level of trust when it comes to the writing. We talk books and writing a lot, and I think he knows he can pretty much argue with me about anything and I won't get mad or tune him out. And vice versa.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's that kind of relationship which makes a good critique partnership.

      Delete
  10. I believe in using more than one critique partner. It helps to get a second or third opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great list of how to make sure your crit partners are on the same page with you! And you for them. Sometimes if they don't say what they're looking for I worry that I missed it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wonderful tips, Lynda. There are six of us in my crit group. And we give each other 2 weeks to critique 20 pages of each others' work.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

    ReplyDelete
  13. I agree with you Lynda. Sometimes we know our story so well we forget to give our CPs enough info to give us the best critique. Thanks for stressing that point. I recently made this mistake and the feedback stung a little. Ouch! Mainly because the person didn't know the synopsis of the book.

    I went across to check out the free copy, but due to writing commitments which begin with 'N' I can't do a review in that time frame. I will certainly be buying/reviewing it for you all later. I want to review so many blogger friends' books that I'm reading/have read.
    Denise

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I don't know the synopsis of the story, then I'll either ask or put conditions on my comments eg If this is meant to be a paranormal romance, then... etc.

      And yes, it's a crazy busy time of year. I hope your 'N' is going well ;)

      And thanks so much for the offer of a review later down the track. You're awesome.

      Delete
  14. Hi Lynda, I find your posts very helpful and if you will please help me improve my writing, I will be very grateful. I will be very happy if you will be my critic. I want to write short stories. I don't know how to put it but I really feel that you can help me a lot.
    Anticipating your positive response.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nobu, unfortunately I'm super busy at the moment with many committments. Perhaps in January, when my workload eases, you can send me an email with this request, including the type of stories you like to write (the genre and your target market), and I'll give you an answer.

      Delete
  15. Lynda, thanks for these wonderful tips. I've actually bookmarked this post so that I can use it as a guideline for future when I actually find some partners. I really like the advice of having three partners.

    ReplyDelete
  16. There are some things in this list that I should have done ahead of giving my novel to a guy who works in editing to critique, as he told me when giving feedback ;)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great advice. Our writing group has recently progressed to the stage of critiquing. It helps that we've already built up a close relationship over the year so we trust each other with our tender hearts :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. and you should pay your critic partners if you want a nice and glorious feedback :PPPP

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lol, Dezzy. What do I do if I want them to rip my story apart? ;)

      Delete
    2. pay them too but in Monopoly money :)

      Delete
    3. hahahahaha! I'll have to start collecting monopoly money

      Delete
  19. I find it hard to gage my own work, so I hesitate to give specific details on what I need. Nevertheless, all the advice I've had has been great. I had four CPs on my recent WIP, and they were pretty much united in pointing out the problems, which was a fantastic help!

    I find reciprocation works well in critting. I prefer to swap a few chapters at a time on a weekly basis. It's give and take.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Reciprocation works really well in critiquing.

      Delete
  20. Thanks for the great reminders, Lynda. I just left the critique group I had attended for the last 2-1/2 years. (We were all just going in different directions.) I plan on taking a bit of a break, but I still have my BCP (Best Crit Partner)to run things by. ^_^

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you find another crit group soon.

      Delete
  21. Thanks for the great advice Lynda. Recently we were involved in some critiquing and the writer was hurt. Now I make a point of contacting the writer and getting her point of view, her notes before starting on an editorial project.

    Nas

    ReplyDelete
  22. Excellent post. My CPs have different strengths, and this really helps with my writing.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Since I'm still making my way around to blogs following my beach trip, I backed up and read the first critique partner post, too. Both are filled with great information. Good series :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Great tips. I look for an overall critique, but I'll also be specific at times. Sometimes I get a nagging sensation that my plot or characters need work and I'll voice those concerns to my CPs hoping for suggestions in those areas. I also have more than one CP and I usually ask if they're able to give feedback within a month.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Such great advice! I think that being open to comments and suggestions is the biggest leap. If our partners are taking the time to help us, it's important that we consider everything they say!

    ReplyDelete
  26. I love the picture you posted. I have missed seeing your photography! Communication is key for any relationship and clearly stating what you want from your critique partners is very sound advise. It is not always easy to do but the pay off is well worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I have 2 crit partners. I need to ask them specific questions (though both are pretty thorough in their critiques). Next time round I will be more specific with what I want them to critique (plot points, character arcs, pacing etc)

    ReplyDelete
  28. great tips! Asking for specifics is important if you want helpful feedback. And having reliable critique partners is a must for every writer who wishes to get published. :)
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

    ReplyDelete
  29. You're advice is spot on, Lynda! I am an extreme advocate for CPs and all the good they can do for us writers. I had many for The Mistaken. Only 2 were real stinkers. And 3 were so phenomenal, I will use them forever!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Oh, and, thank you so very much for featuring The Mistaken as a new release! That is so sweet and generous of you!!

    ReplyDelete
  31. I would love to work with three... But I seem to only find two crit partners to work with each time. Great tips asian. Xx

    ReplyDelete
  32. Great tips, ma'am. Thank you so much. I'll keep them in mind. And that Dezmond is one funny dude. (But I DO have Monopoly money...)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Great post. Quality feedback is SO important. Hearing your baby needs work is hard, but that is the only way to prepare her to brave the *real* world.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I think like most things in writing, obtaining a quality critique depends on the amount of effort you put into it. If you merely hand off your MS to anyone and don't follow up on comments, you won't utilize the full critique.

    Excellent post, Lynda!

    ReplyDelete
  35. I value the feedback I get sooooo much! Everything just seems to make sense after wards. :)

    ReplyDelete
  36. These are great tips. I'm currently looking for more CPs. Thanks Lynda.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I only need two critique partner for my papers, myself, and my girlfriend.

    And after my girlfriend has had her hands on it, it's covered in red and I know what I need to fix. :P

    ReplyDelete
  38. Fantastic tips! And the genre thing is a big conflicting factor in my writers' group. Most don't read fantasy/sci-fi, so when they go to critique it, they sometimes forget how different fantasy/sci-fi can be from other genres.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Very good advice as it means the critique partners review my story based on who it's intended for:)

    ReplyDelete
  40. Critiquing is so hard - both to give and recieve!It is a necessary evil but you have some great tips there.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I think sometimes, just stating the type of feedback you need can be extremely helpful.

    ReplyDelete
  42. good advice. Just put it in practice and it was very helpful.

    ReplyDelete

I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.