Advice on Feedback

You are expected to read and give feedback on each person’s script in your group.

You write one paragraph of 3-4 solid thoughts, which means concrete and specific. Try not to be vague.

These points can cover your emotional response to the writing, areas where you were confused, as well as simple things like grammar and spelling.

With all feedback (beyond even this class), it should contain three elements:

  1. Honest
  2. Helpful
  3. Kind

Anytime that it steps away from these three things, it becomes less useful.

I’ve also included other perspectives on feedback that I thought were valuable.

A Structure for Conscious Critique by Yanyi

I would like you to read the whole thing, but here are a few points that really resonated with me:

When you’re being critiqued:

I think this first point is important for both writers and those critiquing it.

Your work is not aesthetically “good” or “bad.” The point of creative writing is to skate on the margin of what one can say (within bounds of ethics, of course). Writing is a kind of thinking out loud. Sometimes, when we are lucky, we finish our thoughts. At the end of the day, your writing is yours. It exists to give value and pleasure to you first.

In my mind, we should always show empathy. We are all trying to do our best with our skills and time. It may not match your standards, genre, or style—and that's okay.

I think this next one ties in with my thought above:

Listen openly to critique. By taking this course, you’ve signed up to openly give and receive critique of your work. When you publish work, you never get to watch a reader react in real-time to what you’re offering. Often, our comments on each other’s works are reflections of what kind of writing we each like to write and understand. That diversity of perspective is invaluable to prevent harm and confusion. Invite the opportunity to listen in.

Most importantly:

Take what resonates. Leave the rest. An aged but useful rule. A comment on your writing is not a definition of your writing. A revision is about making your writing more like itself. Invite critique, be open to change, and improve your technique, but don’t dilute the heart of your work for anyone else.

I always believe in listening to the critique and saying "Thank you." Thank you if it helps, and thank you even if it doesn't. Someone took the time to read your work and give you an opinion, and we are fortunate for that...but also, it doesn't mean we have to use it.

When you’re critiquing:

Describe the work first. It’s easy to tell a writer how to change something from our own feeling or opinion of what is “good” or “bad.” However, it’s not helpful to tell a screwdriver how to be a hammer. Read a work as though you are not meant to understand it. Start by noticing what it is.

I think this one is very important since sometimes we all approach writing at different levels and interests. You need to accept each writer at the level they are working at. This next point reiterates it.

Understand the work. Sometimes, noticing will lead to an understanding of the work.

This last one is especially important. Don't make the work your own. Support the work and the writer:

Speak constructively. If you have an understanding of the text, how can you help it be more like itself? For example: if you completely rework someone else’s poem, all you’ve done is made their work in your own image. If you say something is good, the author needs to know what in particular is good, and why.

Remember, it is just your opinion. Your one perspective. Don't be rude. The writer has the opportunity to listen to everyone's—including mine—and ignore it. My advice has been ignored many times, and I've been on the opposite side of many discussions. I don't take it personally.

Morgan’s Advice for Feedback

💡 Below is some advice offered previously by a former student and TA.

Hey, y'all! Now that everything has been submitted and it's time to provide feedback, I figured I'd throw out a few things that I personally found helpful to consider during my time in the class. It's not a definitive guideline, just something that might help get the ball rolling.

  • How is the story's pacing? Do you feel certain things could be cut further along the action? Or are things happening too fast and need more build-up?
  • Do action lines need to be shortened/expanded on? Sometimes descriptions can become too wordy, which makes the action hard to follow. On the other hand, sometimes descriptions are so vague that you lose important context. Your script is a story, but it's also a guideline used by a whole team of creatives.
  • What about the dialogue? Does it feel natural? Additionally, do the characters feel natural? Are they maybe relying too heavily on tropes in a way that isn't working for you?
  • For both action and dialogue: Are certain phrases being overused? I often find repetitions of phrases or idioms pretty distracting when I'm reading, so I always look out for those.
  • If the script is hitting these things just right, make sure to point out specifically why! Compliments keep ya going, you know? If you feel like you're maybe being too critical, just remember the age-old rule of the "compliment sandwich"

Grammar and formatting at easy things to point out, but we also want to help each other be stronger storytellers!

The final takeaways

  • show empathy and kindness
  • don't be aggressively personal with your critiques and don't take them personally.
  • be grateful for the feedback.
  • 3-4 lines of feedback.