Will you read what I’ve written?
As soon as I think I’ve finished writing a new piece, there’s that irresistible urge to get feedback from a reader.
What do you think, eh?
It’s more than yearning for instant ego gratification. That’s pretty nice, too. But it won’t help me take my writing to the next level. The sense of accomplishment from getting it down on paper and nailing? It isn’t enough. My inner editor kicks in and creates self-doubt. That’s a good thing and keeps me humble.
No, really. Tell me what you think.
Always be open to revision. Or don’t ask. After a half century of putting pencil to paper this much I know to be true. Took me a couple decades for it to sink in. I might not always be right and I don’t know everything.
What didn’t work?
You need to find those readers who are like your true friends who will tell you there is the spinach between your front teeth or your fly is open.
Every writer needs editorial feedback. Editors are a writer’s best friend.
Last week Brooke Warner wrote a spot-on essay published in the Huffington Post on the 5 things she wished every author knew. Brilliant content. Wished I’d written it myself. Filled with typos. Ouch. Her excuse, when she shared it on social media, involved her technical inability to edit within the HuffPo platform. Double ouch. She’s a great editor.
I’ve been there. As a writer who writes about editing and getting published, it’s embarrassing when someone points out a typo. We all make mistakes. Including editors.
As a writer with a work-in-progress, I find it essential to get editorial feedback. Not from readers as much as writers and editors. Fresh eyes on copy see what I cannot. What is in my head is not always on the page. Finding your own errors is much more difficult than recognizing problems in someone else’s work.
When someone you’ve asked to read your work provides feedback with a list of errors, it can disheartening. You yearned to know whether the motives of your character were clear, or the evidence convincing, or whether the story structure works.
Did you like it? What didn’t you understand?
If you don’t provide someone with a clear sense of what kind of feedback you seek from them, you’ll be lucky if you get a few copyedits. Maybe a compliment or two. If you want someone to be your advocate in advancing the quality of the manuscript, be explicit and specific in your request for constructive criticism.
When someone responds to my request with copyedits, line edits, comments, and developmental notes, I am grateful. There are days when I recall how a red pen mark on my fifth-grade paper made me blush in shame. Listening to criticism and learning from it doesn’t end with schooling. Today, I’m not shocked to see the red lines all over my precious text. I’m thrilled! Someone has read what I’ve written and taken it seriously. They see what I’m trying to say and want to help me make the text better. And avoid embarrassing mistakes I seem unable to edit in my own work.
As the writer, I ask for specific kinds of feedback from reader-editors. Fact checking. Chronology and sequence of events or ideas. Sufficient character depth. Verb tense. Another to tell me if the storyline is satisfactory and whether there are unanswered questions or loose ends. Each helps me revise and edit the substance. Constructive criticisms often mean more work, not less. The result is always better.
Good writing involves rewriting.