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:~: Friday, February 17, 2006 :~:

Feedback, Commentary & Evaluation

Current reading: Training for Georgia Performance Standards, Day 7: Feedback, Commentary & Evaluation

What does that have to do with writing, you say?


I'm reading in preparation for a workshop I have to teach tomorrow. (Normally, I teach aliens with raging hormones . . . wait. I teach teenagers. Same thing. Some days I get confused.) But tomorrow, I'm teaching other teachers. It's a little disconcerting, because many of them have been teaching longer than I have or possess higher degrees than I do, even though somehow I ended up as the department head. The workshop revolves round evaluating student work and providing feedback and commentary on said work.

So reading this training manual started me thinking about the feedback, evaluation and commentary I've received as a writer.

The most obvious, of course, is in the form of rejection letters. Come on, admit it. We all scour those things, even the horrid form letters, for the tiniest tidbit of feedback. Is my conflict too weak? My heroine too whiny? Do I have too much plot, not enough romance? As writers, we hunger for validation and guidance, and we're willing to find it where we can get it. And whether we discard those letters or keep them in a file or paper the walls with them, those nuggets of evaluation stay in the depths of our writer's mind and we draw upon them every time we sit down at the keyboard.

And we become better writers.

My CP's, the contest-winning mavens, have received excellent commentary from their contest wins. Although I'm not much of a contest person, I did glean some excellent advice on writing the first three pages of a manuscript from the one I did enter.

I became a better writer.

Probably the most prevalent form of commentary and feedback I deal with comes from those same CP's. Their willingness to read and slash my chapters, to say the hard stuff even when they know it will hurt, has pushed me to a higher level as a writer. (Here's where you refer to E's post about plot braiding -- let's just say that hard stuff has kicked my butt for months.) Even if I don't always want to hear what they say, when I don't want to rewrite that darn chapter for the fourth time, when I want to discard the suggestions and go my own way . . . well, you know what? I may not apply the ideas to that chapter or manuscript, but you can bet I'm thinking about them, filing them away for later use, on another chapter or manuscript.

And I become a better writer.

Share with us. What was the best feedback, commentary or evaluation you received, positive or negative?


Blogger Paty Jager said...

I think what keeps me writing, even with all the rejections and comments from contests, is I always get "you are a great storyteller" or "I enjoyed reading this" and that is afterall what writing is about.

I'm still working on the craft that will get me sold, but if I can give people something that entertains them as I work toward that glistening manuscript an editor wants, then I can't give up.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Feedback is so hard to take. I cringe every time I open a chapter I've sent off for a crit. I'm wondering if that ever changes? My guess is probably not.

Good point there, Lin...even though we may not apply all the suggestions we get, we do file them away for later. That's so true.

7:27 PM  
Blogger Linda Winfree said...

Great point, Paty. And it's amazing how those little bits of encouragement from CP's and beta readers can spur us on.

Oh, Eli, I cringe, too! I think it's just in the writer's nature.

6:27 AM  

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