Ways to engage more deeply with the writing you love
My error on the spacing around the new Substack mention feature, used in this article! Note to self: always preview carefully before you post!
Brilliant article: So true! As a SS writer myself, and further as a developmental book editor, I’ve experienced this from both sides of the fence. As a writer it can definitely be hard to take criticism; part of creating successfully, however, is learning to thicken your skin and absorb helpful feedback. But I agree: Those giving feedback would do well to practice doing so honestly yet kindly. As an editor people tend to approach me knowing I have a reputation as a very straightforward, no-bullshit guy. That said I always give feedback honestly and after first praising the positives of the writing. Writing of course is also rewriting, revising, editing, cutting, trimming, adding, etc. Every successful writer gets feedback. Anyway--very helpful article!
‘Sincere American Writing’
Love the way this article turned out, Tom! It's something we've discussed a number of times, and it's great to share how we landed on a reciprocal relationship of getting/giving good feedback.
I would encourage others by saying it comes naturally but does require getting out into the community and engaging with other writers on a regular basis. Also, Tom and I both come from tech backgrounds, and we tend to be a little more forthright since our space encourages a direct approach, but you might need someone that approaches it from a much different perspective. The only way to find that out is to interact and see how other writers respond to your work and start engaging.
Thanks for the article Tom. I've asked for comments a few times in a "love to hear from you" sort of way and have indeed received a few. Not too many, but I guess that's okay. I'm pretty new here and slowly getting a little gas in the engine.
One of the things you mentioned really does resonate with me. The part about taking feedback that works for you and ingesting it and taking feedback that doesn't align with your vision and letting it go. I've been on that boat for a long time. It's healthy, but you do need to know yourself and your own vision.
I recently read an article by @gurwinder (not sure I'm doing this new thing correctly or if it even works in comments, sorry) about the danger of changing your vision according to your audience feedback. It was quite an interesting and revealing read.
Great article, Tom! If a note strikes me immediately as brilliant or useful, I’ll gladly take it right away. Otherwise, I’ll wait to see if I get the same note multiple times before implementing.
Very useful article! I especially agree with the idea of approaching a writer through a "back channel" before posting a potentially sensitive criticism directly in the comments. This seems like the most diplomatic way to broach the subject of feedback, especially if it's not clear how receptive an author might be to outside input. I've had wonderful writers I've connected with here on Substack approach me this way and I very much enjoy their insights and contributions! I also appreciate the tact, not so much because I am wary or unwelcoming of feedback (I welcome it in the comments, too!), but because it lets me know where the reader is coming from.
I also agree it's probably wise to be explicit about if and how much we welcome feedback. I know I probably haven't been clear enough in letting readers know I'm open to their critiques, impressions, and ideas. That will change!
I am someone who writes for myself, and I honestly don't care what people think--by that I mean opinions about what I say or how I say it. We could have a long conversation about the subjectivity of substance, literary merit, style, etc. However, I do care how readers understand my writing. If feedback can help me do a better job of explaining myself, I'm all for it :-) As you say, we can always improve.
I'm glad we have this article. I've tried asking for feedback on my serialized story, but I haven't had much luck. I think part of the problem could be that I have a very unconventional format, and so that might intimidate people (dialogue is written in script style, fight scenes are written like a walkthrough for a video game).
The section on giving feedback here makes me feel more confident in leaving comments. Though my belief is that if you don't want feedback on your story, you shouldn't have posted it in public online and turned on the comments. I feel the status quo on feedback should be the other way around where you have to specifically say that you don't want it, not go out of your way to say that it's allowed.
I like the emphasis placed on being kind. There's a certain type of jerk who uses 'honest feedback' as a smokescreen for outright insults and they drag down the entire dynamic of giving feedback online. And the point about being the author being the one who ultimately decides what to do with feedback was a good place to close off the article.
Might make this the first thing I cross-post, tomorrow since I have a chapter scheduled for later today and I'm not keen on sending multiple emails in one day. Just hope it doesn't come off as passive aggressive with all the 'please give me feedback' notes I've written.
Great article! I've been thinking about how to encourage my readers to provide feedback. Your advice will help me get started. Thanks
Some of the best advice I've seen from two brilliant writers is that feedback tells you how a reader "experienced" the work, which helps the writer assess whether they've conveyed what they intended. Otherwise, "good" and "bad" is purely subjective.
Hey fellow fiction writers! I have questions for you regarding the paid subscription model for your work:
If you use Substack to serialize a novel or longer work, what happens when the novel/work is finished? Do you take the novel off Substack and then publish as a book on other platforms? Do subscribers game the system and subscribe after its complete so they’re only paying one months subscription fee for your whole backlist of work? How do you strategize your free and paid content? Do you funnel your subscribers from Substack to more powerful email managers like Mailerlite or Mailchimp to be able to use more complex onboarding sequences to welcome them to your newsletter and direct them to other content of interest?
I’m trying to figure out how this might work to know whether or not I want to publish my humorous adventure mystery series on Substack or if I should publish it the way I’ve already found success with publishing my steamy romance pen name.
Thank you for any helpful insights! It’s exciting to meet you all.
Also I loved this article and I always welcome feedback! Though I agree with Geoffrey about waiting until I get multiple of the same note before taking any action if that note is something I initially don’t see or agree with.
Great advice. Gracias! 🖖🏽
What a welcome piece. Having worked with thousands of kids and teachers developing a curriculum and practice around giving feedback atop these foundational concepts:
You are experts on how your brain reacted to a piece; your task (duty) is to tell the writer what you noticed in a way that will be well-received.
Find what you liked first.
We discovered one thing that you dimension (if I missed it, I apologize; am reading on a smartishphone.) -- giving feedback helps your own writing; you begin to get more analytical and less emotional about your own work and therefore can see -- and fix -- flaws in your draft.
And revision -- self-editing -- is one of the keys to good writing.
Thanks again for this post.
Thank you for sharing! I really like what you said about kindness. Being kind in the feedback we give can help so much! Kindness and feedback are both powerful.
Thank you for this, Tom and contributors!
Managing feedback is definitely a weak spot for me. I am of the thin-skinned variety and easily bruised by criticism, particularly when the work is brand new and I'm in the newborn baby phase of things and only want to hear how beautiful my creation is. 😉
Just as it's important to be able to take or leave feedback based on your vision as the writer, I think it's important to know yourself as a human and choose your path to feedback accordingly. I always handle written feedback better than verbal. I like having the option of arguing with it out loud and making horrified faces that no one else can see. 😊I also like the option of putting it down, walking away, and returning to it later when I'm less defensive of the work.
I post a new piece of short fiction every week, so while the freshest ones may be too close to my author heart to open up to feedback at the start, I would consider updating older posts with a feedback ask, and work on improving those pieces over time for future readers.
Good advice and supportive insight from everyone in here. ❤️
Happy to be aboard with you all.