Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

At what point in the process is feedback/critique useful to you and your genre? (1 Viewer)

Llyralen

Senior Member
Last week I wrote to the 86 year old foremost authority on a subject that is key for my WIP. I was humbled and thrilled to hear back from her! Since she has also written historical fiction in her career, she generously gave me the following advice:

“1) Get started — you’ll change what you write many times later, but you need something to edit. 2) Write in a way that rings true to you, i.e. that reflects your own voice and your own imagination. Therefore: 3) Don’t show others your unfinished work and solicit comments; they will be the very opposite of helpful. Writing is lonely work and requires gestation worthy of an elephant.”

This advice hit me as almost tailored for me personally. You see, these last few months I have worked hard to get myself settled into a critique group with success, luckily. But I’m finding that if I share my WIPs, even ones that I’m well into, that the comments put me in edit mode and prevent me from moving forward with writing. I semi-conclude that I should only share finished drafts that are ready to edit. But is this only true or more true for someone with my personality? I want to optimize my own process and hope others optimize their own as well for themselves.

I wonder if critique is also less helpful with certain genres. With historical fiction usually only the author knows the research and knows when the critic’s ideas deviate from the history they are trying to portray. This can all be distracting.

What have you guys found?
 
Last edited:

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Sounds like excellent advice!
IMO writing IS solitary work - as the saying goes: a monument has never been raised to a committee.
Once your first draft is complete, then a beta reader might be helpful to spot plot holes or comment on the arc of your characters - or their voice. It also helps if you write from the POV of your opposite sex, have someone you TRUST read it and give you input.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
Sounds like excellent advice!
IMO writing IS solitary work - as the saying goes: a monument has never been raised to a committee.
Once your first draft is complete, then a beta reader might be helpful to spot plot holes or comment on the arc of your characters - or their voice. It also helps if you write from the POV of your opposite sex, have someone you TRUST read it and give you input.
Beta readers can probably help more with novels, I would think. A group more with short stories? Of course the beta readers can come from the group. I think having the group itself is motivating and I learn a lot reading their stories as well.

Could you tell me more about your advice to write from the opposite sex’s POV? What do you feel it helps with? I don’t think I’ve written from a male POV except with snippets and letters. Although I plan to coming up for my current WIP, someone from history whose real voice is very strong, actually, so we will see how that goes, but I’d like to hear your experience on this.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
This is going to depend on the skill level of the writer. I think a writer with technical issues could be helped at any point, because I believe they can save a lot of time in learning to write better before they have a novel length mess to deal with.

If technical proficiency is average or better, then yes, finish ... because learning to finish is quite a different process than learning to write well.

If plot and continuity issues rear up, they're as easily dealt with in a finished draft anyway.

And if we're talking short stories or novellas, that's a no brainer. Finish first.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Beta readers can probably help more with novels, I would think. A group more with short stories? Of course the beta readers can come from the group. I think having the group itself is motivating and I learn a lot reading their stories as well.

Could you tell me more about your advice to write from the opposite sex’s POV? What do you feel it helps with? I don’t think I’ve written from a male POV except with snippets and letters. Although I plan to coming up for my current WIP, someone from history whose real voice is very strong, actually, so we will see how that goes, but I’d like to hear your experience on this.
The differences in perspective between men and women are subtle, and both male and female authors are guilty of getting it wrong. If you base your characters on someone you know, chances are that you'll avoid the pitfalls. Still, if uncertain, find someone you trust to read snippets of your opposite sex character and listen to their feedback. Everyone is different though, so keep that in mind. For short works (stories mostly), don't worry too much about it as you're probably not delving deeply.

Plot holes are relatively easy for you to pick up, if you're organized in your editing.

Character arcs are often over looked, but that's only important in longer works. Experiences change us, especially the stronger/traumatic ones. It comes back to the 'heroes journey' plot line that many authors follow. The MC starts out in neutral environment, something knocks them off center, they travel and experience much, and at the end they return to their beginning, irrevocably changed. Homer's Iliad is a great example of this.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
I’d actually love to ask more questions about people’s process of how ideas and characters come to them. It would be nice if everyone got tailored advice to their personality or for us all to understand where someone is coming from when they talk about what is difficult in their process.
I will start another thread for that. I am very curious and it would be fun.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
Interesting thread.
@Llyralen your 86 year old authority has great wisdom, it would be foolish to ignore experienced advice. It is also hard to look past the wizards replies here too though i do have a question...

"Finish First."

Do you know when it is 'finished' and can be sent out to beta readers for comments and plot holes etc? Or is it going through your routines and then sending it out to your trusted crew? I know in the edit section you both have different processes in writing but also would you say writing is a lonely process?

When you 'finish' a story do you share it with your partners to read and discuss or is it run through your systems and then towards a set group of trusted allies to help in spotting anything you may have missed out?
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
A tempted as I was to ask even my wife to read part of my unfinished novel, or even post parts here, I didn't let myself. It might be a good idea for others, but I would be completely derailed by that. Drafting mode is very different than when I'm able to process and act on feedback. I feel competent enough with my writing that feedback on completed full-length projects is manageable and preferable for me.

I agree with @vranger that earlier feedback makes more sense if a writer is struggling at a technical level. That said, though, even my 12 year old student writers are expected to complete a first draft of their short stories before they get feedback from each other or from me (I guide them through every step of it though). So maybe if it's coming down to technical issues, the key is to start with shorter works rather than getting chunked editing help on longer projects.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
Interesting thread.
@Llyralen your 86 year old authority has great wisdom, it would be foolish to ignore experienced advice. It is also hard to look past the wizards replies here too though i do have a question...

"Finish First."

Do you know when it is 'finished' and can be sent out to beta readers for comments and plot holes etc? Or is it going through your routines and then sending it out to your trusted crew? I know in the edit section you both have different processes in writing but also would you say writing is a lonely process?

When you 'finish' a story do you share it with your partners to read and discuss or is it run through your systems and then towards a set group of trusted allies to help in spotting anything you may have missed out?

I think this is where each person’s strengths differ, you know. We all don’t have the same process. I think it’s so interesting— interesting enough for a second thread with my questions too.

Historical Fiction is very lonely work. Going deeper— writing in general for me is a very lonely process as well. I don’t think it is for everyone, but for me it is. Rilke also wrote about the necessity of loneliness in writing in his letters of advice to a young writer. Also in what ways it can be lonely for some is different for different people, I would guess. I feel entirely understood and in tune with the woman who I wrote to. I’d told her I have been researching a subject for 12 years to write a fiction. She must have spent at least that, if not double, to write by far the two best books out there on her very niche subject.

Her advice to me is the same advice I get from my husband… basically the thing that is hard for me is to produce and complete. My stories have probably been in my head getting revisions for years, but getting the story on the page is tough. In other words the lady I wrote to is a lot like me and her advice worked to inspire me again to quit imagining more possibilities and revising in my head and get down to the page.

Do I know if my draft is finished? Yes. I usually have an ending already plotted in my mind. Is this a difficulty for others? I don’t know.

Routine? Not really a word associated with me.

Feom the other posts here, I don’t know what constitutes as technical problems.

My process is mostly to tell my husband out loud whenever I get an idea for a new book or in one of the ones that has been in my head for years and he says “Okay, okay… go write it.” And usually I go research more or do something else and I don’t….this is the thing I need to get over. I need to stop imagining and processing and start writing. I have finished a novella at this point, though, and it is going to be published.

Critique groups have been helpful in the editing process for me… with the WIP I last shared, one of the main problems that came to light is that many people know some mythology but have no idea how the religion of this mythology worked in the real world of that time. They kept thinking magical things would happen instead of things people thought were magical at the time happening. Of course this is a problem— one I didn’t expect— but this will be something for me to iron out in the editing process later. For instance when a character described what happened when Charlemagne burned the Saxon world tree Irminsul then this group was like “How can you burn down a mythological tree?” Wasn’t it called Yddrasil? Your spelling is all wrong”. I didn’t expect to have to explain “Yeah but the Saxons in Germany had a real tree (it was more like a column, but whatever) and Charlemagne did burn it down. There was a genocide and religious war, guys.” So that’s a lot to say “Yes, I mean exactly what I said in the book folks, yeah and harps were shaped differently and you need to know that too…. Or else I need to find some way of showing you that.”

So people’s wrong assumptions are like a puzzle for me now to have to figure out and it is killing my already hard to get focus… but I feel confident it will get ironed out in the editing. I don’t expect anyone to have to read a few history books before they can read my fiction. If it was online I could have footnotes to my research all through my fiction… I’m kidding. I will find some way. Right now I need to keep writing. There was and is enough interest in the subject and plot, but I need to not be pulled away from the writing. And also… ideas at this point? I’m sticking to what has been brewing and cementing for the last 12 years, I just need to get it on the page. So yeah, they are only going to get drafts ready to edit from now on, and yes I need them. I will need feedback for sure. I did on my last story, mainly to confirm that the writing was too dense and I had to whittle off concepts and pages in draft after draft. So that’s my process. :)

Okay, that ended up being a tirade. What’s your process? Answer your own questions, please? Is writing lonely for you? Do you know when you are finished with a draft? :)
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
Okay, that ended up being a tirade. What’s your process? Answer your own questions, please? Is writing lonely for you?
Not really. My wife is sitting here beside me the whole time, and I read scenes to her as I finish them. :)

Do you know when you are finished with a draft? :)
Yes.

I typically have four.
1. What I write, and I do some editing on as I write. If I don't like a sentence in progress, or I've just written, I fix it as I go. If I notice typos or a sketchy sentence as I read a scene to my wife, I fix it then. And when I read back a scene before the next session, I may notice something then.
2. After I finish the manuscript, I do a read-through. I'm mainly looking for mistakes like having written the wrong character name, or a continuity mistake, but of course I may fix typos or adjust a sentence then.
3. It goes through my proofreading app ... again looking for typos or sentence adjustment, but the software points out other things, like filler words, cliches, homophones, and copulas. Any sentence I change in the process is flagged to look at again, because it's as easy to introduce a typo as you edit as when you originally write.
4. A final read-through. Yes, I generally catch a few more things there. LOL
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
A tempted as I was to ask even my wife to read part of my unfinished novel, or even post parts here, I didn't let myself. It might be a good idea for others, but I would be completely derailed by that. Drafting mode is very different than when I'm able to process and act on feedback. I feel competent enough with my writing that feedback on completed full-length projects is manageable and preferable for me.

I agree with @vranger that earlier feedback makes more sense if a writer is struggling at a technical level. That said, though, even my 12 year old student writers are expected to complete a first draft of their short stories before they get feedback from each other or from me (I guide them through every step of it though). So maybe if it's coming down to technical issues, the key is to start with shorter works rather than getting chunked editing help on longer projects.
In Stephen King's book about his process, I think he said he tries not to share with his wife either until he's written his full draft. I read On Writing years ago, so maybe someone knows more than I do, but I thought he said "Stay ahead of the doubt." in connection with this idea. Basically that explaining your idea to someone might put you in doubt and make you stop writing it. However, some of King's ideas are much better than others so I wonder if he SHOULD get his wife's take on it. Maybe he would be less prolific, though. I don't know. I agree with something he said about choosing the idea. He said Time is how he decides what to write. The good ideas are like big stones and less good ideas as like sand that sifts out, and other time the good ideas stick with him and that's how he knows what ideas to go after. That works for me. But we all have different personalities.

When you say technical level, what kinds of things would be better if there was intervention earlier? This is neat that you teach writing. =)
 
Last edited:

Llyralen

Senior Member
Not really. My wife is sitting here beside me the whole time, and I read scenes to her as I finish them. :)


Yes.

I typically have four.
1. What I write, and I do some editing on as I write. If I don't like a sentence in progress, or I've just written, I fix it as I go. If I notice typos or a sketchy sentence as I read a scene to my wife, I fix it then. And when I read back a scene before the next session, I may notice something then.
2. After I finish the manuscript, I do a read-through. I'm mainly looking for mistakes like having written the wrong character name, or a continuity mistake, but of course I may fix typos or adjust a sentence then.
3. It goes through my proofreading app ... again looking for typos or sentence adjustment, but the software points out other things, like filler words, cliches, homophones, and copulas. Any sentence I change in the process is flagged to look at again, because it's as easy to introduce a typo as you edit as when you originally write.
4. A final read-through. Yes, I generally catch a few more things there. LOL

Four times for editing makes sense to me.

@vranger my husband shares his WIPS with me and I love it so much.... but he hasn't made much progress lately, I will be honest. But we've always shared....I don't know if it's a problem or not. Sharing my ideas with my husband is just going to happen, but it MIGHT make me less productive? Because he has kind of taken a "Unless you write it, these ideas don't matter" stance and I say to him "There are always ideas where that came from, I just want someone else's excitement to make sure this one is worth actually going forward with it." But honestly, I have enough of those big rocks and enough research behind some of them. I know exactly what I should be working on.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
When you say technical level, what kinds of things would be better if there was intervention earlier?
I know you quoted Ajoy, but here's my two cents, too. ;-)

What I mean by technical issues is the ability to write clear, effective sentences. Decent punctuation, no run-ons, can figure out what a paragraph is, mature flowing dialogue, good vocabulary ... things like that. These are elements I believe an author should have in their toolbox before they ever consider writing. There are a lot more ;-), but that's a start.

Sharing my ideas with my husband is just going to happen, but it MIGHT make me less productive?

Not something I can answer. :) My wife doesn't help me with concepts or plotting (although I did get the evil eye when I discussed killing off a certain character one time LOL), so it doesn't slow me down. She'll mention if she thinks I stretched too far for a phrase, or have the same word twice too close together, otherwise she's a good cheerleader. ;-)
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
What I mean by technical issues is the ability to write clear, effective sentences. Decent punctuation, no run-ons, can figure out what a paragraph is, mature flowing dialogue, good vocabulary ... things like that. These are elements I believe an author should have in their toolbox before they ever consider writing. There are a lot more ;-), but that's a start.
I wanted to know what you meant by technical as well. =)

Right. We (my husband and I) will never know if sharing our ideas with each other makes us less productive. It's an important part of our marriage and I'd be ticked if he didn't share his writing with me. =) I think yours sounds like a good partnership as well.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I think yours sounds like a good partnership as well.
When we first got married, no mystery we were both voracious readers. I asked Betty if she wanted to collaborate on writing a novel. She had no interest at all. The concept of a voracious reader not wanting to write seemed alien to me. LOL I finally had to break down and just do it myself. :)
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
When you say technical level, what kinds of things would be better if there was intervention earlier? This is neat that you teach writing. =)
I love working with young writers. Their stuff can be really funny and creative. :)
What I mean by technical issues is the ability to write clear, effective sentences. Decent punctuation, no run-ons, can figure out what a paragraph is, mature flowing dialogue, good vocabulary ... things like that. These are elements I believe an author should have in their toolbox before they ever consider writing. There are a lot more ;-), but that's a start.
I'd say all this, plus a decent understanding of basic story structure. My opinion differs a bit in that I think writing short works is a fine way to get practice building that author's toolbox because you can work on (and potentially get feedback on) so many things all at once. (Though understanding the basics of SPaG is only going to be helpful in that process of author development through practice.)
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
When you say technical level, what kinds of things would be better if there was intervention earlier? This is neat that you teach writing. =)
I love working with young writers. Their stuff can be really funny and creative. :)
What I mean by technical issues is the ability to write clear, effective sentences. Decent punctuation, no run-ons, can figure out what a paragraph is, mature flowing dialogue, good vocabulary ... things like that. These are elements I believe an author should have in their toolbox before they ever consider writing. There are a lot more ;-), but that's a start.
I'd say all this, plus a decent understanding of basic story structure. My opinion differs a bit in that I think writing short works is a fine way to get practice building that author's toolbox because you can work on (and potentially get feedback on) so many things all at once. (Though understanding the basics of SPaG is only going to be helpful in that process of author development through practice.)
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
When we first got married, no mystery we were both voracious readers. I asked Betty if she wanted to collaborate on writing a novel. She had no interest at all. The concept of a voracious reader not wanting to write seemed alien to me. LOL I finally had to break down and just do it myself. :)
I also wanted to collaborate on a novel when we first met and I still do now that we've been together 18 years. For my husband, writing is an even more solitary process than mine is.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I love working with young writers. Their stuff can be really funny and creative. :)

I'd say all this, plus a decent understanding of basic story structure. My opinion differs a bit in that I think writing short works is a fine way to get practice building that author's toolbox because you can work on (and potentially get feedback on) so many things all at once. (Though understanding the basics of SPaG is only going to be helpful in that process of author development through practice.)
I absolutely agree. For me, I cut my teeth on 500-1000 word story segments in interactive adventure fiction. And it was EITHER 500 or 1000 words. I was printing either one page, or two pages, to mail to a customer. LOL It wasn't cost effective to spill onto the second printer page unless I filled it ... and overhead for postage was a factor. Three pages added postage and cut into profit.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
I love working with young writers. Their stuff can be really funny and creative. :)

I'd say all this, plus a decent understanding of basic story structure. My opinion differs a bit in that I think writing short works is a fine way to get practice building that author's toolbox because you can work on (and potentially get feedback on) so many things all at once. (Though understanding the basics of SPaG is only going to be helpful in that process of author development through practice.)
Short stories are great, especially for a classroom. I would bet that you learn a lot by reading their work.
The way my critique group is set up has catered to short stories. Basically each person has a night of their own every 8 weeks. The author reads their story out loud, usually sending a hard copy out before-hand and gets all of our feedback after, all in 1 hour. I'd like to propose that we read each other's stories out loud to each other. I think it would be a good learning experience. You read your own work differently. We really saw that last week. There were many comments that the tone when we were reading was different than the tone when the author read it. His intended tone became clear.
 
Last edited:
Top