• Sarah Davy

Finding Feedback

One of the hardest parts of writing is giving your work to other people to read. And no matter how hard you find it, it's a crucial part of being a writer. We had a great discussion about this as part of our First Friday series and have come up with some notes to help you find feedback. Remember, everyone works differently, so you might need to experiment to find what works best for you.

Finish it!

This might sound obvious, but before you start asking for feedback, finish your work to the best possible standard. If you're working on a longer project, you might need to write a synopsis to accompany extracts. There's a great guide on this from Writers Block North East here.

What's your goal?

Think about what you want to do with your piece of writing as early as possible. If you're working towards publication, you need to think about where it might sit in the current market. Read writing in the same genre for ideas on style and what's being published. Having a goal will help you work towards a finished piece and to ask the right feedback questions.

Think about what you need

Once you've finished your work, read over it carefully. What feedback do you need? Are you worried about plot holes, character development, grammar? Just asking someone if it's good won't help. Make a list of questions so people can give you helpful, constructive feedback that will make your work even better. Good feedback won't always be positive, but it should be constructive. It should tell you what works and what doesn't, and if it doesn't work, it should tell you why.

Finding readers

This is where things can get tricky. Don't worry. It will take some work but it's worth it. Usually, asking friends and family isn't the best route, unless they're also writers or you know they will give you honest critical feedback.

The best way to find people to read your work is to engage in the global writing community. Writing does not have to be a solitary task and working with other writers is really rewarding.

Use Twitter and Facebook to find writing groups - here are some useful hashtags - #WritingCommunity #BETAReaders #AmWriting #WritingFeedback. Join a writing group or take a course - this is the best way to meet other writers who are also looking for feedback. Ask in your local library or bookshop, or put an ad in your local paper. Finding other writers can take some work but we are everywhere!

Building a relationship

Giving feedback involves trust, respect and cooperation. If you're able to commit to reciprocating and reading others work, it will not only help them but you. When you set out, establish some ground rules. Be kind and respectful. Establish expectations early on and be understanding if things don't go to plan. Be honest about what you can manage and don't make unnecessary demands of each other. You might also find that a feedback relationship doesn't work. This is fine, normal and it's ok to move on.

Paying for feedback

There are lots of brilliant individuals and organisations who offer feedback services. If you are able to pay, take time to research before parting with money. You should always work with people who can give you something you don't already have. Take time to read feedback from other writers and don't be afraid to ask questions. If you're unsure, step back. There is never any way of guaranteeing that work will be published after feedback so be wary of anyone making promises that sound too good to be true.

Other options

Many competitions and open submissions opportunities offer feedback and mentoring as part of prize packages. Think again about what you need and enter your work into calls that give you well-rounded prizes to help your development. There's a real mix of paid and free opportunities, so choose carefully and only do what works for you.

I know best

There's a very good chance you might disagree with some feedback you get. This is fine. Feedback is a series of suggestions. And you get to decide what to take on board and what to ignore. Remember, if you do go against what a lot of feedback is saying, you need to have a good reason. It is your work and, up to a point, you get to decide. Just make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.

What next?

Writing is almost never finished. We will always find something to change and even published work can have room for improvement. You will, at some point, need to decide that your piece is finished and ready to send off. You could set a deadline, or allow yourself a set number of revisions. Then, you'll have to let it out into the world.

Our next post will look at what happens when you send your work out to an agent and on submission. Here are some links to help you start your feedback journey.

The Literacy Consultancy - editorial and manuscript services

New Writing North - writing development for Northern writers

Write Mentor - mentoring opportunities for writers of children's fiction

Teeside Writers Group - open for new members

Sunderland Creative Writing CIC - writing groups and development in Sunderland

Creative Future - awards for underrepresented writers

Society of Authors - advice, grants, groups and resources

And keep an eye on our timelines and newsletters for chances to meet other writers!