Dear writers, how do you distinguish between genuine and thoughtful feedback, vs. careless and inattentive feedback?

I'm curious to know how others in this sub approach the subject.

On the one hand, all feedback is valuable since it collectively represents the thoughts and criticisms of an average reader. On the other hand, not all feedback is created equal. I've gotten notes from readers who have clearly spent an adequate time on my story, have read every sentence carefully, and have done their best to provide me with constructive criticism. And I've gotten notes from readers who have barely skimmed my story, if that at all.

Strangely enough, I've also gotten feedback that is hard to place in either category. For example, the reader will make some profound remark, but I'll have a hard time finding where exactly that applies in my story. Or stuff like "I don't think this character works in this scene," etc.

I think that as writers it's tremendously important to recognize what advice is good and what isn't.

Writing | 👁 1252 | Posted 2018-03-07 | Share on Facebook | Twitter | Google+

| Modified: 2018-03-07 | Author:


spencerfalco 2 years ago

Coaching is distinguished as information meant to be helpful to the student. Criticism is information meant to hurt the student. Solicit feedback from those who wish you to do well, not those who wish you to fail.

LambentTyto 2 years ago

I disagree. All feedback is not useful. I put up something from a NY Times bestselling book once and they ripped it to pieces. Told me to learn grammar before posting, etc. Trust me. You give a piece of writing, even a good piece of writing to a crowd and ask them to rip it up, they WILL RIP IT UP whether it's warranted or not.

OtterLarkin 2 years ago

Careless feedback is where I think someone says something like "That's not how I would write it". They didn't write it so of course it would be different. However if someone says something short like "too descriptive" that's perfect for a beginning writer. No need to do line by line edits at that point.

BeggingforQuestions 2 years ago

That's strange because I think the exact opposite. Part of me wants to assume you're being sarcastic, but I can't really tell.

lisabauer58 2 years ago

I think that anyone who takes time out and writes anything is valuable because the book meant enough to them to offer their insight. I doubt if people who didn't take time out to contact you cared one way or another. But the ones that do is reflecting a lot of the opinions of those that don't. Don't ignore even the comments that aren't even coherent. Instead contact the person for an explanation. Remember that one comment received is a reflection of the readers who didn't write to you. And those readers could be thousands of opinions. Then it up to you to decide if the statements are worth enough to rewrite something within your book or a lesson to learn from. :)

Bloodsquirrel 2 years ago

It's like making an argument--if someone can't support any of their statements with examples and reasoning, why would you expect anything they're saying to be accurate? This is completely wrongheaded. There's a difference between arguing about a matter of fact and expressing your personal reaction to a story. You can't be wrong about whether you liked a book or not, regardless of how well you can express it. If one person gives you detailed feedback on why they liked something, and nine people just tell you that it didn't work for them, then you still have a scene that nine out of ten people didn't like. They don't have to support themselves with facts and arguments for that to be true.

Bloodsquirrel 2 years ago

Feedback from somebody who is fundamentally uninterested in your story's goals can be disregarded. If you're writing a sci-fi book, and someone comes back as says that they don't like spaceships, then they're just not part of your audience. If a foot fetishist tells you that your adventure story needs more descriptions of your characters' feet, then you can push that aside. Decide what your goals are, and look at your feedback to see who is helping you determine whether you're accomplishing those goals or not. If someone is barely skimming your story, it means that it wasn't engaging them. That's a useful datapoint all by itself. Just because somebody's negative feedback is valid doesn't mean that it's useful. If they can't express themself well enough for you to figure out what their problem is, then you may need to follow up and ask them some questions. People will always disagree about things that they like/dislike, so you need to look for where multiple people have said the same thing. If all of your skimmers tell you that your prose is too purple, then your prose is probably too purple. If it's just one guy out of ten telling you that they don't like a character, and the others like him, then it's probably just that one guy, whether he's a skimmer or a careful reader.

VehaMeursault 2 years ago

Through the argumentation of the criticism. If it's coherent, then I'll take it even if I don't agree with it. That doesn't mean I'll obey it, but I'll take note. If more people agree with the same argument, I'll consider being the one in the wrong. Also, whether or not I obey the advice that comes from it depends on if the critic understands my motive. I understand that he doesn't like a passage, but if he doesn't understand that it's not to be liked and serves a specific purpose, then his complaint is moot. And a simple "I don't like it" doesn't even register with me.

IreliaCarrlesU 2 years ago

Every Critic isn't going be able to connect with your story enough to Truly engage with it. Working towards that is kinda the whole point of getting Critiscm, right? let's just not hold Critiscm itself to a standard and seek improvement where-ever the mass of Critiscm we receive says we should. I see young artists, placing requirements for Critiscm alot, and watch as thier art styles barely improve over years. I've always thought it was the Safe Space they've made that holds them back, it makes me sad.

mezonsen 2 years ago

If it's negative I ignore it, but if it's positive then it's real.

RuroniHS 2 years ago

The depth of critique you get doesn't necessarily represent the depth of reading the person did. All a critic can really do is tell you the impression they got from your piece. And whether they give you deep, insightful analysis or vague, emotional reactions, that was the effect your words had on that reader. That's pretty much the point of getting criticism. I tend to ignore criticism that comes in the form of detailed instructions of what to do because at that point they're not reading your story anymore, they're writing it, and that's not the job of a critic. I try to understand why the readers had the reactions they did, regardless of how deep their criticism is. Everything else, I take as a suggestion, and nothing more.

jmhimara 2 years ago

I wholeheartedly agree.

writtennotforgotten 2 years ago

As a general rule, follow most diligently the advice (if you choose to do so) of those who can cite lines and examples from your work to support their criticisms. Those vague statements you mentioned, like "this character doesn't work in this scene", show an unwillingness to understand your work before critiquing it. It's like making an argument--if someone can't support any of their statements with examples and reasoning, why would you expect anything they're saying to be accurate? All vague comments like these really communicate is the feeling or impression that reader got at that point in your work. Of course, that can be valuable, but what's more valuable is why that feeling arose, which gives you a better indication of how to fix the problem.

jmhimara 2 years ago

Thank you. The use of lazy buzzwords is particularly telling. It's something people throw around thinking that it's always relevant, and as such makes it look like they've done the work.

Corsair1824 2 years ago

The meta answer here is that you'll have readers of both sorts, as well. Those who look carefully for meaning in every line, and those who speed-read through. To that point, every type of feedback is valuable, as it informs you of the impact of your writing on that set of people. The question, though, is how you prioritize your potential readership demographics. Do you want to be a writer for only deliberate, inquisitive readers? If so, does that exclusivity come at the cost of a wider audience, and is it then worth it? Conversely, it's probably wrong to cater too strongly to the casual reader, as well. At what point is your story too watered down to really be true to itself? Anyway, for matters of function (grammar, editing, writing devices) find yourself one or three good, knowledgeable people and be good to them, because they're invaluable as readers. In terms of general appeal, learn to use a wide array of feedback to judge the overall balance of your work, so that you can deliberately target demographics as you wish. Best.

morph83 2 years ago

Genuine and thoughtful feedback=Critiques that engage with the writing and attempt to see the story on its own terms. The good reader demonstrates sound comprehension skills and is able to quote passages--in context--from the story to support an interpretation without committing errors of fact or inference. There's also no use of lazy buzzwords like 'believable', 'relatable', etc. and no attempt to impugn the author's motive for writing the piece, such as 'This is pretentious tripe that uses too many big words!' The good reader also uses specialised literary terms appropriately and is able to read the story in its ideological as well as historical context. If the reader doesn't have much prior knowledge of something such as specialised literary terms or a specific historical period, then s/he will admit it and realise the limitations of his/her critique.

jmhimara 2 years ago

That's an interesting point. I never really considered it.

respighi 2 years ago

To me it doesn't matter. The only question is whether the feedback makes sense and is helpful. Hear every criticism and suggestion, judge it against your internal sense of taste. Weigh it against what you want the piece of writing to be about. And then just take it or leave it. Smart, thoughtful readers can give boneheaded advice. Careless readers can breezily toss out interesting points.

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