Feedback For Writers

To be an excellent commentator / receiver of feedback—

  • Be aware of the advantages of receiving feedback on request
  • Ensure that you ask for feedback
  • Use the feedback given to improve your writing
  • Be conscious of the pitfalls involved in giving feedback and the methods of minimising these risks

Giving / receiving feedback

  • Given skilfully it is important and useful
  • It is a way of finding out another’s opinion of our writing
  • It is a way of development and learning more about our writing
  • It is about the effect our writing has on others

Constructive / positive / developmental feedback

  • Can increase our self awareness
  • Offer options which we are free to accept or reject
  • Encourages development and learning
  • Encourages personal development

Constructive / negative / developmental feedback (given skilfully)

  • Useful for personal development as a writer
  • Can be important and helpful
  • Offers options for our future writing
  • Offers options which we are free to accept or reject

What to feedback

Outcome: the result(s)—what was most effective / interesting
Content: what happened—characterisation / story structure / suggestions
Process: how things happened—plot / suggestions
Future: how to improve

Risks in giving feedback

  • The recipient might become angry / withdraw from the situation
  • They may disagree
  • They may become upset
  • They may become more stubborn
  • It might affect your relationship
  • They may not like you any more
  • They may misunderstand what you are trying to say
  • They may distort what you are saying to suit their own needs
  • It will make you feel bad telling them something they may find difficult or painful to hear

Risks in NOT giving feedback

  • If feedback is not given there is very little chance of there being any change
  • The other person may be unaware that there is anything to be improved
  • At best the status quo will be maintained, but there will be no opportunity for the other person to learn and develop their writing
  • At worst, the problem will develop and writing will suffer because the writer has not received feedback

Give positive feedback before negative

Most people respond to praise, encouragement, and recognition. Preface negative feedback with a positive statement, and it is more likely to be favourably received.

Encourage

If you like something, or feel they have done something particularly well, recognise this, give positive feedback, encouraging them to build on their strengths.

Be specific

Avoid general comments such as ‘that was good’. Instead say what was good.
Concentrate on WHAT can be changed.
Direct feedback only towards things that the writer can do something about.

Remember

  • Allow the other person the right to accept or reject your feedback
  • You cannot impose beliefs, opinions, and attitudes on others
  • At best, demands are met with initial resistance: at worst, feelings of resentment
  • Whether or not your feedback is acted upon is a matter for their decision

Offer alternatives

Turn negative feedback into positive suggestions or questions. For example:

“It would save time if you created a character chart first, it would avoid not knowing what your character would do in a given situation. ”

“How could you do this differently to ensure clarity?”

Facts based on evidence and judgement—not opinions

If you evaluate, do so by referring to criteria that you saw or heard and the effect it had on you. For example:

“The way you listened to my story / poem, the way you sat forward; your facial expressions all made me feel important…”

Take responsibility for feedback

Avoid “you are…” statements, which suggest universally agreed opinions of the other person. It is important to take ownership of proffered feedback.

Offer choice

Leave the recipient with a choice, but try to make them aware of the implications if they do not learn from, or act upon the feedback.

Change following feedback

There is always the chance that the recipient will be annoyed, or hurt by negative feedback, or that your relationship might change as a result. You need to weigh the pros and cons of NOT offering feedback before proceeding.

Ask whether or not they agree with your feedback
Ask if they have ever been told something similar before
Ask them to suggest alternative methods of dealing with the writing etc
Ask them to consider the consequences of not acting upon feedback

Receiving feedback—extremely important for writers

  • View positively, as an opportunity to learn about yourself
  • Be open minded and honest
  • Avoid being defensive
  • Remember that feedback is only one person’s personal observations and reaction, and you do not have to agree with it!
  • Recognise and appreciate that to some extent, the person giving the feedback may be taking a risk, and by doing so is indicating their commitment to you.
  • Listen carefully. Avoid immediate rejection.
  • Unreasoned resistance may restrict further feedback.
  • Be sure that you understand what is being said. Test you understanding by reflecting back, ‘…so you mean…’
  • To obtain a balanced view, check the ‘accuracy’ of the feedback with other people—they may have other views
  • Be confident, ask for examples, illustrations
  • Ask for the feedback about yourself that you want, but tend not to get
  • Be sufficiently confident to stop feedback at any time: possibly to reconvene
  • Take a balanced view. Recognise you have choices: ignore it, ask someone else, assess its value, stop it, etc.
  • Thank the person who gave you the feedback—they may have found it difficult and a potential threat to your relationship
  • Remember that we all make mistakes from time to time; we are human (!) If you make a mistake in feedback, apologise and move on.

Summary

You should now…

  • Be aware of the advantages or receiving feedback on request
  • Be conscious of the pitfalls involved in giving feedback
  • Be aware of methods of minimising these risks
  • Have derived development and learning points on the practicalities of giving and receiving feedback
  • Be sure that you will ask for feedback on the session before it ends
  • Use the feedback given to improve your writing

If you would like to receive an exercise on how to use affirming and constructive / developmental feedback, with a few suggestions of alternative ways of feeding back, email webeditor@worcesterwriters.org.uk

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