The worst feedback I ever got. I’ll never forget it. Someone I trusted with the opening chapter of my novel wrote, “Wow. This dialogue is really lousy, isn’t it?” It was a comment so needlessly mean and at the same time so unhelpful that I was unable to even write for a couple weeks after I read it. (Yes, I need to toughen up.)
The best? My favorite was “Your story looks beautiful on paper.” My second favorite was on a scene in which two monsters battled until the female beat the male into submission. The comment was “Still a better love story than Fifty Shades.” It made me laugh.
However, as much as I loved hearing those comments and as happy as they made me, they weren’t “good” feedback in the sense that they didn’t help me improve as a writer. I will cherish them, I will pull them out and fondly remember them when I’m feeling down, and I will be smiling about them years from now. But they weren’t helpful.
So instead of the best and worst feedback, I’d like to talk about the most helpful feedback I ever got. And that was a critique that ripped my chapter apart. My paragraphs. The critiquer pointed out how big my paragraphs were and how that made them harder to read. How in an action scene — which the chapter was — that slows down the reader’s eye. He pointed out places where I could easily put paragraph breaks to emphasize an important sentence or idea.
And the result? I have not only changed the way I use paragraphs in my writing, but I pass that knowledge on because now I notice in other’s writing as well.
That critique, which tore my writing to tiny, bloody shreds, didn’t make me feel good. It didn’t make me feel bad. It made me feel excited about writing!
The takeaway – when giving critique, comments full of praise are always appreciated. When accepting critique, ignore the “lousy” comments, but love and appreciate the ones that actually teach you to improve your craft.