I know well the desire to have approval, the boost we get from a genuine compliment.
I also know that asking others for feedback when what we really want is a pat on the head is fraught with peril, asking for trouble, bending over and begging to be kicked.
Some general thoughts and specific comments on feedback:
- Feedback is a minefield. Proceed with extreme caution.
- Know what level of feedback you seek. Rosanne Bane explains.
- Do you really need someone else to tell you whether what you’re writing is what you should be writing? Veteran editor (and publisher of The War of Art) Shawn Coyne says “That’s a recipe for disaster.” Mick Torbay says to avoid the committee like leftover brussels sprouts:
- I have found general feedback from readers and writers to be useless. USELESS.
- Feedback from a professional editor is golden.
- Answers to specific questions can be helpful if
- you know exactly what the question is, and
- the person you ask is eminently qualified to answer that question, and
- the person you ask will tell you the truth, and
- the answer actually matters, which should really come before ‘a’ above.
What I’m Doing About It
I’m writing my first scifi adventure. I’m going to share the first draft, ugly and stinking, with a reader who loves Asimov and Burroughs the way I do. All I’m going to ask her is, does this feel right? Does this feel like them?
If yes, good. If no, I’ll ponder whether that matters and whether I’ll do anything about it except perhaps adjust my marketing message. I highly doubt I’ll change my writing because of the feedback. So that’s marketing research, not writing feedback, isn’t it?
Don’t Wait to Be Picked
Marketing guru Seth Godin has been saying it for years: don’t wait to be picked. Pick yourself.
Learn your craft. Know what a good story is, and isn’t. Do your best work, at least, best for now.
Don’t wait for someone else to tell you whether or not you’re good, whether or not to publish, whether or not your story matters.
Once your brain has enough information to get the basics done, it’s your heart’s turn to run with the story and scatter it to the four winds. And hopefully, more than four fans.
There’s an old story about a chap who goes on vacation and leaves his dull-witted brother to care for the household.
After a week, he calls home and asks how his cat is faring.
“Cat’s dead,” his brother blurts.
“What? It’s what? That’s no way to tell someone their beloved pet died! Ya gotta work up to it.”
His brother, eager to learn, asks how one might do that.
… more … “When is it Appropriate to Offer Unsolicited Criticism of Someone’s Art?”
Sometimes when we’re stuck a total stranger has our answer. It’s not the most likely avenue to resolve our writing challenges, though.
The stranger would have to discover that we have a problem, and they’d have to know the solution (or at least a solution.)
If you describe your writing challenge to me, I have a rare ability to see and hear viscerally which gives me insights which are valuable even to a complete stranger.
That doesn’t scale, though. I can only work with a handful of coaching clients at a time. Also, I’m expensive.
… more … “How Personal Relationships Make Feedback Valuable”
When my middle daughter was taking an interest in music, I tried to teach her some piano basics, and a bit about music theory. Nothing elaborate. Things like chord patterns that work well, melodic structure, lyric writing.
She dismissed it all. “I know what I want to do, and I don’t need all that stuff.” To me, her playing sounded like she was just picking two keys at a time, stringing pairs of sounds together, vaguely timed against some clock that didn’t exist.
No lyrics. She was a poet, and I guess the lyrics were going to stay in her head, not come out of her mouth.
Fast forward 5 years. I mentioned that, at the time, it sure seemed like all she wanted was to “let her genius flow unhindered” rather than learning a few basics that could turn her meandering into real songs.
She said, “Yeah, I was just being lazy and pretentious. I need all that stuff. Will you teach me now?”
Her lyrics never fail to make me cry or laugh out loud. Her melodies are mature. She’s a decent piano player. And one of the finest singers I’ve ever known.
Lateral arabesque to a location somewhere in my head.
… more … “What if I Don’t Want to Play by the Rules?”
Authors seem to think they need to please their fans, or Amazon, or a publisher. I know I’ll be the voice no one wants to hear, but I don’t change my art for anyone. And yeah, you’re gonna say that I’ll never be a best-seller; that if you don’t bend to the market, you’ll never get popular.
But I already have real-life experience which says otherwise.
… more … “I Will Never Adjust My Art to Suit You”
Head on over to the NFAA blog and read my article about how to review a book.