So you’ve completed your first draft. Congratulations! You made it. Now it is time for the real work to begin. It’s time to get some constructive feedback and redraft before you rush out to badger HarperCollins or Bloomsbury in to publishing your work.
I’m here today to discuss the pitfalls of asking family and friends to critique your work. We’ve all been there; that nail biting moment of dread and terror as you await feedback from your loved ones. This is your baby after all. You’ve slaved away for months, maybe years and now that the moment to hand it over has come you just can’t face it. I’m not judging, I’ve been there… and I suspect you all have too.
So how do you handle feedback? And, more importantly, how do you handle that moment when they just say ‘yeah it was great‘ or worse ‘fine‘? If you are anything like me then you will be thinking ‘and what else?’ as they shuffle your papers back towards you. Look, we all know that your loved ones don’t want to offend you (and rightly so) but they should be prepared to offer constructive criticism. It is no good to simply recieve a meh response. It doesn’t help you to become the writer I know you can be and it doesn’t help your chances of success in publishing your work.
To over come these barriers I’ve composed a few suggestions to ensure that you are getting the feedback you need (even if it isn’t what you had hoped for).
1. Feedback Forms
Now I know you’re probably thinking I’ve spent months researching, reading and writing and now you want me to do a survey? Just hear me out for a moment. Sometimes it’s hard to tell people things they don’t want to hear to their faces; well by using anonymous feedback forms it eliminates that concern and ensures that no hard feelings are had by anyone. More importantly, it allows you to focus your questions clearly, particularly if you already have specific concerns, and it also allows the reader to consider it in thoughtful detail. People tend to offer far more genuine insight when they’re not afraid of a bad reaction.
2. Focus Groups
Focus groups? What are they? Well, my dear friend, they can make or break your manuscript. If you’re writing a book aimed at teenage girls there probably isn’t going to be any point in asking your Great Uncle Charles, who is 97 by the way, to read through your masterpiece. He won’t ‘get it’ as it isn’t his cup of tea. You need to make sure that whoever you ask for feedback from is within the audience market you are trying to reach. You could ask your 15 year old niece instead and ask her to pass on a select few copies to her friends. Once they have all finished reading you can arrange a time to sit and discuss the book in more detail. This allows you to pick their brain and determine if your writing style is really engaging with the market you are targeting.
3. Online Forums
This suggestion should be taken with a pinch of salt, and only if you are prepared for some brutal feedback (beware the troll). There are plenty of fanfiction sites out there where you can post a chapter or two to gauge interest. Aside from the occasional ‘troll’ people are pretty good at heart and will offer genuine reviews based on what they have read. It removes any personal conflict from the equation and if there is a reoccuring theme of concern amongst readers you will know what needs addressing when you begin your redraft.
These are just a few suggestions but I hope you found them useful, and perhaps you can even contribute a few of your own ideas below. Good luck guys, I’m counting on you. TTYL.