|Guidelines and Advice for Writer's Workshops
Use tact in your feedback. One of the most useful words in a workshop is "consider." Rather than saying, "I think you should change this part because it is confusing," you could say, "Consider changing this part for clarity." The later wording leaves the author with a better sense of control with additional options. The best critiques inspire the author to look for creative solutions and more effective alternatives.
Do not write the work for the author. It is very tempting to inflict our own ideas on an author in our critiques. It's a natural impulse for writers, but one we should curb if we are to be helpful. So avoid comments that give specific changes. If there is a technical or logical problem, it is better to simply point it out and explain why you have a problem with it.
Be specific! It is of no value to simply say you like or dislike something. Saying "Awesome!" doesn't help a writer grow. We need to know why it is awesome so we can do it again. If you don't like something, try to determine why. For example, if the evidence used does not support the claim, it is better to tell the author, "The quote you used to support your argument, that Lee Harvey Oswald isn't the lone gunman that the Warren Commission claims he is, seems to support the commission's claims rather than your own. Is that what you intended?" Also be specific about your favorite sections, lines, and transitions. Especially the most memorable ones.
|When Receiving Feedback/Critiques
Beginning writers have something valuable to say. Writers need to have an idea of how readers will react to their work, and, unless you're writing for specific academics, it isn't likely that the average reader will read your work with the same critical eye as an experienced writer. Think of the critiques you receive as a public survey on your work. Some comments will be from writers less experienced than yourself and some will come from more experienced writers. You, as the author, are the final judge of a critique's value.
Do not defend your work. If your work is not understood, then it either needs to be clarified or the person offering the critique wasn't reading closely enough. Let it go. If one person misreads your work, don't worry about it. But if several say the same thing, then it is worth reconsidering. Again, our readers will not always read as closely as we'd like. What is important is to understand what they are likely to miss and what partsleave the strongest impressions. We want to know what jumps off the page, even in the misreading. . . or rather, especially in a misreading. One of the best was to find the most powerful parts of your work is to have someone skim over it and report the results; then go back over it a second time for a closer reading.
No pain, no gain. Constructive cirticism may hurt. Anybody that says different needs to have their pulses checked. Some of us can deal with it better than others, but all of us would rather hear a compliment than a criticism. Writers are generally sensitive to people; we have to be in order to write. Unfortunately and fortunately, everyone comes to a workshop with a different set flife experiences and cannot read our minds. Writing is learning. It is important to know how our own life experiences compare with other's. This is why we read and why we write--to find out how we fit into the grand puzzle. So the pain we feel from the criticism is exactly what we need to find our differences and come closer to understanding our realtionship to others, and this helps us to write so that others will understand us better.