So a friend asks you for some feedback on a WORK IN PROGRESS. You want to give a clear and concise critique. Having been on the wrong end of a scathing review of my work, I came up with a few guidelines I use to give them. First I ask the following questions to the writer.
- Do you want me to comment on content only?
- Should I edit for grammar and spelling?
- Ask for the genre and age group it is targeted for—if YA you’ll know to watch for inappropriate subject for that age. Eg too much explicit sex.
If he/she gives the okay to edit you are free to have at it but be NICE! Always start with what you liked about the work so far. Feel free to ask for clarification about words or phrases you aren’t sure about. If you feel that there is something uncomfortable about it and can’t continue with it say so up front. Example you may not like the genre or the subject matter tell the writer so he can get some one else to read it. i.e you can’t handle horror or say abuse of women, children, or animals and excessive violence. Use humor when possible –Like “you had a lot of foul language and violence buddy, did someone crap in your Wheaties that morning?” The fact that you didn’t like the language or violence will come out but if he/she can laugh at the comment. Be sure to comment on:
- Setting—time frame
Alternate good and bad points –a former boss calls it a McMaster sandwich—start with positive, state negative and end on a positive note. Tact is important you don’t want to make the person wonder if he/she should give up writing. Most people know how to give feed back but my co-member in a writing group needs serious sensitivity training. Above all be encouraging. Even if the story is full of technical errors and holes in the plot assure the writer that with a bit of tweaking there is a great story to be told. Your relationship will be safe and he/she will feel like they can build a better mouse trap.