Advice on giving advice

Giving advice to another writer is often part of being in a writer’s group. Generally simply saying what worked for you and what you felt could be better is all that is needed. 

Here is some advice on giving advice.

Remember what you are giving feedback on

Suzannah Windsor Freeman’s first tip in her 5 Keys to Giving Constructive Writing Critiques is, read thoroughly. You are giving feedback on writing, not the person, the paper, or the font choice.

You are giving feedback on someone’s work. Sometimes this is a work that has come from deep within the writer and they are very attached to. For example, positivewriter.com describes some work as an ugly baby – no matter how hideous the baby, it is still someone’s baby, so be gentle.

For example, writingforward.com suggests you Devour the Food, Not the Hostess. In other words, focus on the writing, not the writer.

Don’t forget the positives too.

For example, writingforward.com suggests that When you are giving a critique, always start by emphasising the good and positivewriter.com suggests that you start with the positive.

Don’t insult someone’s ugly baby, especially early on in the writing process. Ask questions to help the author find their story. Sometimes they’re too close to their own words to achieve objectivity. says positivewriter.com

Seek balance in your feedback

Suzannah Windsor Freeman reminds us to Praise, but don’t sugarcoat. It is possible to be “too nice” as well as “too harsh”.

Put criticism between praise

If in doubt, there is always the feedback sandwich a shortcoming slipped between two positive points. This is something that Celes from personalexcellence.co suggests. She says, I refer to the feedback sandwich as PIP, which stands for Positive-Improvement-Positive.

Try using two pens

It might sound crazy but use two pens when giving feedback.This is a suggestion from weareteachers.com. If you have one colour for the positives you have noted and another for the things that need work, you can see instantly if you are being balanced.

Follow-up

Sometimes feedback can be a little crushing. Having handed out a dose of reality to a writer are you ready to follow up on it? This is why writingforward.com suggest that you Nurse the Hangover. In other words, contact the writer a few days later and see how they are getting on.

At Thanet Creative Writers some of our guests at Tea and Chat will bring back the same writing three or four times. While it can be a chore to read similar work over and over it also is a joy to see a story grow into something special. However, not everyone will do that so think about following up with people whose work you have given feedback on. After all, I am sure you would feel better if others did the same or you. I know I do.

Over to you

Do you have any tips to add? Have you given feedback that really helped? Have you had truly great or very bad feedback? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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