Monday, September 9, 2013

Giving Feedback

I’m grateful to have received, over the last decade, feedback on my manuscripts from several writers who I respect. These colleagues have helped me grow, broadened my understanding of craft, and encouraged me. There are few things I treasure more than having a fresh (and knowledgeable) set of eyes pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of my work. 

Every once in a while, I get the opportunity to give back, that is, some author asked me for feedback on their manuscript. Over the years, I’ve encountered writers who were only interested in hearing praise, and didn’t take to kindly to my unvarnished comments. But then there were those writers who were only interested in making their story the best it can be, and did’t care how harsh the messenger came across. These are the people I love to work with.

The interesting thing about giving feedback is that it makes me grow as a writer. I have to read with my editing cap on, always analyzing character motives, word choice, flow of the prose, story structure. I learn more from editing other writers’ work than editing my own, so I look at it as a win/win for me as well as for the writer I’m working with. 

I do, however, find feedback an extremely challenging task, and what makes it so is giving my opinion on what I think are weaknesses, without imposing my style on the story. Admittedly, I’m not so good at that. I have strong opinions on the art of craft, based on a few decades of writing, and I find it difficult walking that fine line between helping and overshadowing. I always tell the writer up front, “These are not edits, they are suggestions. Take was feels right to you, and trash the rest.”

The only negative of helping others is that it takes vast amounts of time. I need to read carefully (translate, slowly) and take time to consider and respond with meaningful comments. It’s a bit tedious, but well worth the effort. 

I’m working with a manuscript now, written by a published author I admire. Hopefully, he and I will both enjoy this journey. 

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