Getting feedback on your writing is like going to the dentist:
Yeah, a scary dentist with huge fingers and bad breath…
Where you find out your X-rays are out of date and they usher you in before you can protest. You cut your cheek on the bite plates, then they point out your cavity. No, wait! Not one, but five cavities! Oh, and by the way, you also need a root canal. BUT the good news? They can fix you all up in an hour — you just need to wait in the crowded waiting room and let your anxiety take over.
An eternity later, you find yourself in the sticky vinyl chair enduring the needles, drilling, scraping, and bleeding gums. You tell yourself that it’ll be over soon and you’ll end up with a much better smile.
For me, the process of receiving feedback on my writing is like visiting the dentist. Like the smile you leave the office with, the story you produce from the feedback is invaluable. As I’m nearing completion of my writing/revising/editing portion my novel, Love, Lies, & Clones, I’m trying to sort out the best way to get a few beta readers and some initial feedback. There are lots of choices:
- Online vs. in person
- Strangers vs. acquaintances
- Paid vs. free
- Writers vs. readers
Online Vs. In Person
Well, this may be obvious. Online gives you more anonymity, but in person gives you more of a conversation and ability to ask questions. I think it’s really a matter of what your options are where you live and what you are most comfortable with.
In person ideas are a local writer’s group or hitting up your circle of friends and family. I’ve thought about putting out a Facebook post: Is anyone willing to read my novel/story/etc.? I imagine, I’ll get a taker or two.
Strangers Vs. Acquaintances
Another matter of personal preference. I personally feel a little odd asking a friend or family member to give me their honest feedback. I feel it puts them in an uncomfortable situation if they didn’t like what you wrote. (So, I’ll probably never write that Facebook post.) Plus, there is the “mother effect”. I’ve given my writing to my mom and she always says the same thing. “It’s great! I liked it! Keep going!” As nice as this is to hear, it doesn’t help further develop the story or improve my writing ability. I feel strangers are a good choice. They don’t know me and aren’t afraid to be honest — keep in mind though, some of them can be brutally honest and you need thick skin. (Not like me who quit writing for nearly 10 years after my first experience with a critique forum.)
Paid Vs. Free
Who doesn’t want everything free? Getting a quality reader for free takes some leg work and even if you find someone, they may not even complete reading your piece to give you feedback. I think that’s why there is a growing community of beta readers who charge to read your work. Prices between $25 to $100 seem to be common. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but now if you want a few people to give you feedback, it adds up. Especially if you then fix some issues and want to try again. I can see some value if you can find a quality/legit paid beta reader for an initial read through before asking for more people. I may do this, but I don’t know yet.
Writers vs. Readers?
I really think you get much different feedback from a fellow writer opposed to a reader only. Having BOTH read your work seems to be the most helpful. A writer will point out how you can make something better, but might also derail you from the intention of the piece/paragraph/scene by giving you suggestions on how they would have done it. Readers are great for giving you believability, plot holes, and pointing out the boring parts. I know that many writers are also readers, but the difference is interesting when it comes to feedback on your writing.
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So, for me…. Due to geographical location and my little bit of social anxiety, I enjoy having a stranger read my writing for the first time and gravitate towards internet resources. Stay tuned for part 2 of this post with a focus on different online resources for critiques/feedback. It should be posted next week.
How do you like to share your first draft?
I’d love to hear your thoughts of strangers vs. friends, online or in person, free or paid, or writers or readers?
As always, thanks for reading!