The Why and Rules of Feedback

feedback

With each round of the Smut Marathon we invite writers and readers to give feedback on the submittied stories, in which they can also assess whether or not a participant has adhered to the assignment. It is good to see that people – readers and writers – are making an effort to leave feedback, sometimes on all the stories, sometimes only on a couple of them. In this message, like in a previous post, we want to shine a light on giving and receiving feedback.

Why feedback?

What is so important about giving feedback? Why do the writes want that? Why would they ‘expose’ themselves to ‘critisism’?

Through feedback the writers get the opportunity to look critically at their own stories. At first a writer’s reaction might be to dismiss the feedback, because no one likes it to hear something ‘negative’ on what they have written, but as a writer you should distance yourself from those emotions and try to look at it in a realistic way. The feedback might point out the contradictions you have missed in your story and which are disturbing to the reader. It can be that you, as a writer, feel the eroticism of the story, but that it doesn’t come across to the reader as erotic at all. But, feedback can also be about grammar and punctuation. Feedback might point out to the writer that the sentences are too long or that (s)he has forgotten to use quotation marks with dialogue. Maybe the writer has used metaphors that detract from the story. Maybe the story would have been better if it had a different ending. In short, feedback given by the readers is invaluable for writers to make their stories better.

Guidelines for the giver of feedback

  • Always start with something positive. If you start negative, the receiver will immediately shut out everything you say.
  • Once you have said something positive, formulate the ‘negative’ feedback in a positive way, for instance by starting your sentence with “Maybe it would come across differently if you…” or “It would be nicer to read if…”
  • Your feedback should always be about the story and NOT about the writer (when the writer is known_.
  • Good feedback is specific and not general, which means it’s focused on specifics and clearly defined matters in the story. Only saying “Good story” or “I didn’t like the story” isn’t constructive feedback. Say WHY you liked or didn’t like it.
  • Your feedback should be formulated in such a way that the writer can use it to improve future writings.
  • Always end your feedback on a positive note.

Guidelines for the receiver of feedback

  • * Always keep in mind that feedback is a way to learn and to grow as a writer.
  • Be open for feedback and do something with the feedback you get. Never respond to feedback the moment you read/hear it. Let it sink in, think about it and only then decide whether you want to respond or not.
  • Try to understand the feedback. If you don’t understand it, ask what the giver of the feedback meant.
  • Assess the feedback on relevance. If it’s relevant, then do something with it, take it to heart.
  • Don’t immediately interpret negative feedback as criticism, and don’t immediately start to defend yourself. Stop your emotions, let the feedback sink in and only then respond.
  • Feedback is not directed to you as a person, so don’t interpret it as such.
  • The feedback you receive is not a measure of the potential of your story. You can always choose to rewrite your story, taking into account the feedback you have received.
  • Also, your potential as a writer is not measured by the feedback you receive. Negative feedback doesn’t mean that you are a bad writer. By taking feedback to heart and improving your story, or taking the feedback into account when you write a next story, you improve yourself as a writer.
  • The feedback you receive is the opinion of one person. Even if the giver of feedback tries to be objective, the feedback will be colored by your own frame of reference, your own experiences.
  • In the end, a story is ad remains something that belongs to the writer. If you can’t do anything with the feedback, then you don’t have to follow the advice.
  • Never be discouraged by feedback! Continue writing!

Always remember: feedback is not criticism!

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