It’s not always easy to know where to go for feedback. Luckily in the age of the internet, you can barely move for places, groups and communities who would love to read your work.
The tricky part is figuring out what kind of feedback works best for you.
How can feedback benefit my work?
If you want people to love your book, then you must get feedback.
Sometimes as writers we get so close and personal with our stories, that it’s nigh on impossible to step back and look for flaws.
You absolutely must endure the sting of criticism if you’re going to be a writer. Being slagged off and told you can’t write for toffee is your life now, and will only get worse the more successful you get. Congratulations! *golf clap*
This is where constructive feedback can save you.
Let’s spoil Captain Gobshite’s fun by identifying (most of) the things they could gripe about ahead of time.
Are you even ready for feedback?
If your gut answer to this question is ‘no’, then that’s absolutely fine.
There are few times more precarious in a writer’s life than when they invite someone in from the outside world to read their writing.
Make no mistake, this is sacred ground. Angels fear to tread here, so it’s natural to be cautious of someone dancing all over your story baby with big, shit-covered spiked shoes.
I personally feel that you shouldn’t go seeking feedback until you’ve written the second draft of your novel. I don’t think you should even read the first draft until at least a week has passed.
You’ve just been through literary labour. Now, I’m not a mother (yet) so I’m not about to insult mums everywhere by comparing writing to the Gauntlet of Nope that is childbirth.
However, you’ve just dragged something kicking and screaming from your brain onto a blank page. That is no small feat, dear ones.
Your brain during the birthing of a novel is entirely different to your brain that’s slipped back into daily life again. This is the brain you want to run your novel by, not the panting, oozing, mumbling-for-sweet-oblivion lump of pink sludge that’s often left in the wake of a first draft.
Your first draft will be a bag of shite. Even Ernest Hemingway said as much, and who the hell’s gonna argue with that fella?
This isn’t a reflection on your ability as a writer, by the way. This is the way it should be. Think of your first draft as the raw primordial soup of your body, unrefined and foul-smelling in parts, but still full of life-building nutrients that will feed your story for many drafts to come (and there will be many).
Because your first draft comes out so messy, so raw, so unpolished, you can often see areas for improvement just fine on your own.
It’s my feeling that you’re still a bit sore from the first draft while you work through your second draft. A tactless comment from an outsider could send you reeling under your bed sheets, howling vows to never write again the whole way.
That’s not to say that you won’t get dickbags giving their useless opinions throughout your career (because you will, and as I mentioned, the volume of dickbaggery will increase along with your readership). You just need to be a bit selective on who you entrust your book baby to.
Come back next week for Part Two: where to go for writing feedback.
*Not everyone who gives a negative review will be a gobshite btw – just the ones that leave such helpful comments as ‘this was shit, die in a fire’. Or the ones that give a one-star review for getting a damaged book. Seriously f*** those idiots.