Getting Feedback

Feedback is crucial to any serious writer’s progress. It’s nice to have someone read your work and tell you it’s awesome, but that’s not really why feedback is important. In fact, if somebody’s looking at your first draft and telling you it’s awesome, odds are they’re just trying to flatter you.

The reason why feedback is so important to a writer’s progress is because we’re often too close to our writing to see what’s wrong with it. We love those pretty sentences that just don’t belong. We’re so deeply in love with our world that we forget our readers don’t know anything about it. We already know the story, so we tend to skim instead of slowing down to find the spelling mistakes. A second pair of eyes helps us catch those mistakes.

The people who give feedback are generally known as critique partners or beta readers. They usually work on a friendly exchange basis–they read something of yours, you read something of theirs. The best critiquer is another writer with different strengths than yours. For example, my newest critique partner is someone who has never completed a novel, but who’s written lots of short fiction. This is mutually beneficial because she can help me tighten my short stories and I can help her stay motivated through longer projects.

There are lots of places where you can find feedback on the web. Most writing communities have a section designed for giving and receiving feedback. Not all of them are active or helpful, but there are some gems. There are also websites with a structured critique function, where you earn points or credits by critiquing others’ works and then use those credits to put your own work up for critique. One that I’ve found very helpful is Critique Circle. With their queue system, you often have to wait three or four weeks before your story goes up for critique, but I’ve gotten many useful critiques and read some amazing stories on critique circle.

Some critique groups are run by email loops. These include the Internet Writing Workshop, which has several lists for different kinds of writing, and Critters. I’ve used both Critters and the Novels-L list of the Inernet Writing Workshop. Critters is pretty demanding and I found it too hectic to keep up with. Novels-L sends me a lot of email, but they don’t expect me to critique very many of the chapters that pass through my inbox.

Critique groups can be wonderful things, but sometimes you want a long term partner. It’s nice to develop a relationship with another writer, to have someone to bounce ideas off of and someone who will always read your work. These relationships can be hard to find, and I’ve started many only to have them fizzle away into nothing. Most writing forums have a board dedicated to finding beta readers, but it can be difficult. It’s quite likely that you’ll go through several critique partners before you find somebody you can work with in the long term.

I found my latest critique partner using a site called Ladies Who Critique. The site opened last year and it’s helped many people find their critique partners. So far the critique partner I found on Ladies Who Critique is a great match. It’s a really interesting website designed specifically to match up writers with the critique partners they need. I don’t know of any other sites like Ladies Who Critique, but if you find one, I’d love to know about it.

Next week I’m going to talk about etiquette when giving and receiving critiques.

Do you have a critique partner?

4 thoughts on “Getting Feedback

  • Thanks for posting this. No I don’t have a critique partner but after reading your latest blog entry I am certain that every writer needs one. Receiving feedback will probabaly be hard for me once I actually finish my book. While I recognize the importance of getting feedback, good or bad, it can be hard for someone to try and keep their own feelings in check regardless of the critique. I’m promising myself to try and keep the “take it professionally not personally” motto in mind once I begin to enter the feedback phase of writing. Thanks again for another great post for us aspiring writers! 🙂

    • Hi Michelle,

      A critique partner really is one of the best things you can ever have as a writer. It will always be hard to receive feedback, but it’s important to be thankful instead of defensive and angry. The person who is giving you the feedback just wants to help. One of the best things to remember, especially if you’re writing on a different planet or in a completely different society than ours, is that if you find yourself explaining things to your critiquers, you need to address their questions in the next draft.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post and I hope you’ll be around next week when I talk more about how to behave in a critique exchange.

      Thanks for stopping by,

  • redparrot


    I used to have an awesome critic but that was a long time ago. It was an on-line buddy, too so the site you reference sounds awesome.

    Work has been mayhem since mid December and I haven’t had any time to write … but I have been re-filling the well with a boatload of reading.

    Always checking in to view your posts even if I don’t comment. 😀


    • Hi RP,

      Glad to see you’re alive.

      I think online buddies are awesome. For one thing, my critique partner lives in Egypt. Not only does that mean we get to talk about how different our lives are and share experiences with each other, but it means that I can’t strangle her if I initially get angry at her critique. I’ve got a pretty thick skin, but even still sometimes critiques are harsh, and for somebody with a temper like mine, it’s probably better for everyone that my critter is far out of reach.

      Seems everybody’s been really busy lately. Don’t forget to take time for yourself.


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