Giving and Receiving Feedback: Optimizing Critiques in a Writing Group

Giving and receiving feedback is essential in any writing group, helping everyone's writing improve. Optimizing these critiques requires trust from the author and skill from the reader.

Remembering the Golden Rule when giving feedback is essential for optimizing feedback exchanges. In other words, writing group members should treat others' work as they want theirs to be treated.

Moreover, it goes both ways. You should also receive feedback the way you would want the feedback you offered to be received. Here are a few ways to apply the Golden Rule to optimize critiques in a writing group.


Giving Feedback

The writer trusts the reader to read their work and offer insight. Here are a few ways readers can honor that trust:

  • Start with the positive. In acting class, we gave fellow actors "the roses before the thorns," meaning we told them what worked well in the scene before what didn't. This concept applies here as well.

  • Focus on the writing, not the writer. Ensure that comments are about the work, e.g., the title, the plot, or the misguided paragraph, and not the writer, e.g., their title choice, their plot holes, or their troublesome paragraphs. 

  • Be specific. When pointing something out, use examples from the copy. If you don't have examples, particularly with constructive criticism of a passage, the feedback doesn't always land the way one might hope. 

  • Ask questions. Sometimes, clarifying the author's intent when confused will help you focus your advice in a helpful area.

  • Return to the positive at the end. After starting with what you liked, moving into areas of concern, clarifying any questions, and being specific, return to the positive. At the end, summarize something that you liked about their writing. 


Receiving Feedback

When your work receives feedback, it's natural to feel vulnerable, which doesn’t always take us to a great place mentally. Here are some ways to channel that feeling in a healthy direction, which include:

  • Take advantage of the opportunity: Listen and take notes.

  • Avoid defensiveness: Be open to the feedback and try to listen instead of talking.

  • Keep from explaining: It is critical to understand what the reader thinks when they read your work. Explaining what you meant to write doesn’t change how the reader understands what you actually wrote.

  • Be respectful: It's okay to disagree with the feedback, but you should listen to it; it demonstrates areas of opportunity to improve how you get your point across.

  • Ask questions: Getting specifics can help you get the most out of their critique.

  • Take it slow: A lot of feedback all at once is overwhelming; work through it one comment at a time.

Feedback is essential to the writing group, and it is necessary to ensure it is optimal for both parties. Following the Golden Rule and treating the work and input offered as you want yours treated can help this exchange be productive and protective.


  • Posted by Terri Lively
  • May 1, 2024 5:05 PM PDT
Giving and receiving feedback is essential in any writing group, helping everyone's writing improve.




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