Writing Tip: Choose Your Readers Carefully

Writers often want someone to read a draft and give an opinion. Think twice. Or three times.

Family members generally fall into two categories: those who offer unconditional adulation, and those who are masters of the put-down. They are convenient but not always the best choice. Ask for comments primarily from other writers, or at least from experienced readers.

If you choose to belong to a critique group, choose peers who are of good heart–i.e.,no one is out to be top dog. The focus is on everyone making everyone else’s writing better, no competition.

Ask whoever comments on your work to be concrete, to identify specific instances to support any general statement. If the person says that you use strong verbs, ask for examples.

Get both positive and negative comments, and don’t defend your work. Getting feedback is not a debate. Your readers are responding to what is on the page, not what you were thinking or intending. Bring that up only if you are asking how to do it better.

And remember that suggestions are there for the taking–or not! But if there is a consensus on something–e.g., that the dialect is too heavy–ignore it at your own peril.


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