Feedback Guidelines

It’s always a risky undertaking when providing feedback to an author, there’s an art to giving useful information in a clear fashion that ALSO doesn’t get any noses bent out of shape (the author’s in the figurative sense, yours potentially in the literal sense if you don’t duck quickly enough). But despite the risks, I DO want feedback, and I do want you to give it, because writing is a very personal art and I NEED to know how individual people respond to what I write.

But there are a few things to keep in mind in giving me feedback:

1. For me, there are two broad categories of feedback:

A. Feedback on technical aspects

For me this is the category of “The arch is either built to handle its own weight or it isn’t.” This includes the easy ones like obvious misspellings (I used the word “their” when it’s clear I meant to use “there”), little things like that are PAINFULLY easy to miss, so I’m always grateful when someone points them out to me so I can correct it in a future printing. (I’m less pleased that the error EXISTS, mind you, but that’s a different thing entirely.)

It can get a little murkier when it comes to other technical aspects, because there are times I will freely break the rules of grammar, punctuation, etc. if I feel at the time doing so gives what I’m trying to say enhanced feel or clarity. If you feel the need to give feedback on those kinds of aspects, keep in mind I may have broken the rules on purpose, and no matter if I did or didn’t, I’ve no particular interest that I did something “wrong,” per se. Did I or did I not convey what I was trying to convey such that you understood it clearly? THAT is what I care about!

B. Feedback on stylistic aspects.

To continue with the arch analogy, this is the “I have painted the arch sky blue, but you think it would look better black” category. This is where you need to be careful and show some understanding.

BECAUSE writing is a such a personal art, no two people are going respond exactly the same way to everything I write. A scene that is one person’s favorite is going to be hated by someone else, EVEN IF they enjoyed most of the rest of the book. By definition, everything in the book at least works for me on some level or I wouldn’t have included it, so keep in mind that *I* probably like what I wrote.

So . . . while I’m interested in what you personally liked or didn’t like, stylistic feedback won’t be given the same weight as technical feedback because stylistic feedback is about subjective opinion. Telling me what you LIKED will always be appreciated. Telling me what you DISLIKED is likely to be merely noted and filed away in a place in my brain that records patterns. If I hear the same feedback enough, I’ll always go back and re-evaluate what I’m getting feedback on.

I may decide I’ve reason enough to continue doing what I was doing, but I WILL re-evaluate it.

2. Obviously all of the above is only a guideline, and the categories are almost never going to be as clear cut as I depicted and I know it, but don’t sweat it. The basic secret to ANY feedback with me is that you’ll get back the respect you put into your feedback. Neither sugar coat it nor hit me with it like a hammer and we should be fine.

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