My friend asked for my thoughts on her novel-in-progress, and I gave it to her. She seemed grateful until she started crying because what I thought was helpful actually hurtful feedback. My writing advice felt flat as well…
In fact, she eventually confessed that my comments caused her to shut down and stop writing for months. She was convinced she was doomed to fail and that her writing career was over.
This is not so much about giving good feedback as it’s learning how our words can make or break someone else’s work—or even their dreams of working in the field at all! Here are some guidelines on how you can get better at delivering straightforward critique without discouraging an artist from ever wanting anything more than a quick glance again:
When you give honest feedback on someone’s writing, keep in mind that they may feel like an impostor. This psychological phenomenon is called “imposter syndrome.” It can strike writers who produce anything from poetry or fiction to monthly marketing reports and it makes them think they don’t deserve their success because at any moment, somebody will expose them as a fake.
It can be difficult to feel confident when you are presenting your feedback because there is always the possibility that it will not go over well. After all, everyone knows how easy it would be for any of us to mess up something we’ve worked hard on. So if you focus too much on what could happen instead of focusing more attention on their successes and strengths, then this may leave them feeling discouraged about trying again in the future—and they won’t learn anything new from working with you!
Read the whole thing thoroughly
Give the manuscript a thoughtful read-through (or two) before you give feedback. The writer is in a vulnerable position. You owe it to this person to prove that you’ve invested more than a quick glance and offered a snap judgment.
Don’t skim. Read deeply. Take notes.
Forget about the compliment sandwich
Instead of using a compliment sandwich, be honest. Be diplomatic and use honesty as the best policy when giving feedback to your employees or colleagues.
The input provides an example that demonstrates how this technique is used in practice by managers who want to give their employees critical feedback without seeming too harsh on them at first glance: “I read most of your article and liked it but you have awful spelling and terrible grammar- are sure you graduated from high school? You did lay out manuscript well though!” The output doesn’t include any inputs verbatim, yet still manages to convey its main point effectively with simple language
Ask questions that lead the writer in the right direction
Feedback is meant to help the writer expand on their potential. When giving feedback, it should leave them feeling like they had an awakening and know what needs revision to make writing work. Here’s an example:
A critique isn’t about showing how much you know; instead, it helps writers expand their potential by making them feel that they’ve discovered something new through receiving this constructive criticism. For instance – if a writer wants advice on his fictional prose piece with three main characters named Jim, Mattie and Robby- he can be told which character has more development or substance in comparison to others thus helping him edit accordingly for future works of fiction pieces
If you find that the writer is making many errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation throughout their manuscript consider suggesting a thorough line edit. If there are weak language choices make sure to point out an example of this so they can understand what it means for them as writers
It’s a critique, not a review
Instead of treating feedback as a review, consider it an opportunity to find ways you can improve your work. If someone requests my input on their work-in-progress, I offer suggestions and tips for improvement that could help them succeed in the future.
If you’re giving feedback on someone’s writing, your job is to judge whether or not they’ve achieved what they set out to do. For example, was the goal of this piece intended for entertainment purposes? Or did the writer want their work taken seriously in a professional setting? Focus on how an author can improve next time around and help them create a winning manuscript.Share
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