How to Make the Most of Creative Writing Feedback

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Seeking creative writing feedback? Start here!

Even positive, encouraging creative writing feedback can hurt. No writer gets excited about a critic picking at something they love, that represents part of their soul. Unfortunately, all great writers have to go through constructive criticism from early readers, friends, and editors. It’s important for your own development as a writer. While there’s no way to make it easy, here are a few tips to help you digest and make better use of any criticism you receive.

Get in the right mindset

It’s easy to see criticism of any kind as an all-powerful force of destruction. It just sweeps in and erodes the very foundations of your work—nay, your soul.

That isn’t true, even if it feels like it is.

To benefit from feedback on your creative writing, you have to be in the right frame of mind to accept it. That may mean meditating before opening the edit from your beta readers. It may mean sipping chamomile tea while you converse with your writing coach. Do whatever it takes, and remember that this is ultimately a positive experience. Like exercise, it will be painful at first, but the runner’s high comes later.

Start slow

I, personally, have very mixed feelings about writing groups. You have no idea who you are working with until they’ve flayed you open in public. This is a terrible introduction to receiving feedback.

The first problem is that it’s public. Accept the first round of critiques in private. It’s best if the critic isn’t even there. That way, you may preserve your friendship through this ordeal.

Secondly, choose people you know and trust for early critiques. Do not throw a draft to the wolves of the new writing group and pray they’re tame. Ask the friend who is already excited about your story to give you the first notes. Family works, too, but only if you’re on good terms.

After your first round of edits, consider reaching out to a friend who’s also a writer who you respect. You could just be friends through Discord. It doesn’t matter. Teachers fit this category well, too. You’re looking for some level of connection paired with expertise.

Only go looking for professional help when you’ve exhausted your immediate, safe connections. Ensure you won’t waste anyone’s time with edits you already knew you needed to make. You’ll have more emotional bandwidth to handle the encounter, and the experience as a whole won’t feel as shockingly strange. It may still hurt, but that’s what happens when you let other people read your work.

Compare and contrast

Look for reoccurring notes from alpha readers, beta readers, and editors. Do they get confused about certain passages? Did they struggle to get through a particular scene or chapter? While all input is valid, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to rewrite.

If one person feels uncomfortable with your protagonist, but everyone else enjoys them, the odd-reader-out may have personal tastes that don’t align with your target audience. Always find out what made them uncomfortable and pursue more insight. For instance, if your only female reader was put off by your heroine’s thought patterns, you should see if other female readers feel the same way. That would signal a need for revision. If one of many female readers hates the fact that your character wears pink, then it’s probably just a matter of taste.

There are many ways to make sure you’re making the most of any creative writing feedback you receive, of course. These are just a few! But I hope they help.

How do you prepare for critique? What tips do you have for other writers? Share your thoughts and opinions with the community below!

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