So you’ve found a writing group or critique partner—now what? While some people are more practiced at giving and receiving constructive feedback than others, being upfront about everyone’s expectations and commitments will make for a smoother experience.
Questions you might want to discuss with a new writing group or critique partner include:
- How often do you plan to meet or share feedback? Are you in the same time zone and on similar schedules? Will you meet in person, schedule a video chat, talk on the phone, or exchange feedback via email? Who is responsible for scheduling—will you alternate? How will you handle missed meetings or feedback dates?
- Are you hoping for this to be an ongoing, long-term relationship, or are you primarily looking for feedback on a single project? Would you like to meet for several weeks or months on a trial basis before making a longer commitment?
- How much material do you currently have ready to share? What stage of the writing process is the material in (first draft, multiple revisions, etc.)? How much material are you able to read and provide thoughtful feedback on at each meeting?
- What level of feedback are you hoping to receive (verbal feedback, written feedback of a certain length, in-line manuscript notes, etc.)? What level of feedback are you able to provide?
- Are there specific areas of your work that you’d like feedback on? If so, can you share them or ask specific questions about these areas? Would you like to hear ideas for addressing any issues, or would you simply like the issues pointed out for you to brainstorm and address on your own?
- Likewise, are there any aspects of your work that you are not open to feedback on?
As with most things, quality is more important than quantity; having too much feedback can be detrimental to the writing process. For this reason, I suggest approaching feedback like a funnel.
When you are in the early stages of brainstorming or drafting a manuscript (i.e. the top of the funnel), it can be helpful to get feedback from a wider group of people, such as a writing group. Feedback from multiple people at early stages can help you identify what big picture story and character elements are resonating with readers, as well what areas may need more development.
As you move forward in the writing and revising process, your feedback funnel should gradually narrow. For example, you might share your full manuscript with one or two trusted critique partners, rather than a larger writing group.
Once you begin working with an agent or editor, I’d suggest either focusing solely on their feedback or sharing your revision ideas with one other trusted person. While what works best for each writer may look slightly different, limiting the feedback in the later stages of a manuscript can help to avoid receiving conflicting notes and opinions, which can make the revision process unnecessarily challenging and confusing.
Your Editor Friend,
P.S. If you found this letter helpful, please consider sharing it with a friend or subscribing to receive new letters straight to your inbox. If you’d like to say hello, share feedback, or submit a question that I might answer in a future letter, please email me! I’d love to hear from you.