Monday, May 7, 2012

The Feedback Process

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill developed over time, through active participation and practice. In addition to constructive critique and positive comments, it is useful to offer comments about general reactions, first impressions, opinion about changes to drafts, agreement and disagreement with feedback from others and your reasons for this. This kind of feedback is useful because it gives the writer a sense of how the text has been received. Additional to helping the writer identify weaker areas in a piece of writing, positive comment is equally important as it offers encouragement and builds confidence by showing  the writer what worked and does not need revision, while helping others to identify and model good examples. In the past I have provided guides for the giving and receipt of comment and critique, here are some tips for processing critique and comments. If someone cannot listen without objecting to the critique being offered, or if they take offence on a personal level, it may be that this is not the right type of writing group for them, or it would be better for them to work alone rather than submit work they do not want to change.
          It is worthwhile remembering that all groups are made up of different personality types, skill levels, and life experience and all add to the fabric of a writing community. What is learnt from critiquing one person’s writing, leads us to be more critical of our own endeavours, as we subconsciously apply the rules of grammar and writing. Although it is less complicated to stroke egos with insincere positive comment, it lacks integrity and does nothing to advance the writer’s skills. All critiques and comments are gifts. They are
suggestions to be considered and it remains a choice as to whether they are used or not. Taking advice from those who have been published can assist beginning writers to move their work toward to such goals and, while some may perceive a few comments as negative, this is nothing compared to what actual publishers may say about the work. I advocate an early growth of a ‘writer’s skin’ to avoid later misery. When others take the time to read work, and make comment, it is out of respect for the writer that changes are suggested, just as those who give in-depth critiques are providing tools for them to progress as a writer.

Ø  Keep your mind open and remain objective as comments are made – they are not personal.
Ø  Do not waste this opportunity, listen carefully and take notes.
Ø  Critique can reveal how your writing may have been interpreted or misinterpreted, enabling you to get your point across better next time.
Ø  Critique can measure your development and growth as a writer. 
Ø  Do not try to defend your work, save any response until everyone has spoken. Then, if the critique is unclear, ask for more specific information.
Ø  Reflect back comments to check you have heard correctly.
Ø  Do not explain your work, as it should be able to stand on its own merit.
Ø  Remember that, even if you don't agree with it, all feedback is useful.
Ø  Work through the critique points at home and address one issue at a time.

Writers' groups offer the opportunity to learn about the business of writing and to hone your writing skills. The benefits of being a member of the group are greater than having the strengths and weaknesses pointed out in your own stories. Making comments about the work of others, you will learn about techniques you can apply to your own writing, and learn more about the elements that go into good writing. The writing profession is filled with people who find it hard to accept criticism, even more so for those who cannot separate their ego from their work, therefore, perceiving critique as a personal attack.
Anyone hoping to become a published writer has to separate critique of self from critique of work. It is not about the writer; it is all about the written work. It is the process by which you learn to identify strengths and weaknesses of your work. You will never be able to overcome weaknesses or fully exploit your strengths until you learn to identify both.
Input from other writers can help improve your own writing, as it is often easier to see mistakes in the work of others than it is to see what is not working in your own – you are too close to your own work to see its flaws. Through participation in the group process, you will be able to apply your new analytical skills to distance yourself from your own writing, allowing you to recognize and avoid those same weaknesses. 

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For some reason I'm yet to fathom I'm unable to reply to comments left by others so thank you for dropping by and taking the time to read and comment. Merlene