Is it useful to get writing feedback from friends & family?

millymollymo

Automaton in disguise
Joined
Apr 28, 2013
Messages
748
Location
East Yorkshire
If anyone finds an an answer to the OP please let me know.

I've tried critiquing others but I'm really bad. The end results are too wishy washy to be any use except for upping a thread's post count. I just don't want to offend anyone and/or give bad advice due to own inadequate techniques.

I'm ending up writing stuff that'll never be read.

But you feel it's bad, so you know it's not right. Identify why YOU feel it's not right. It's your story, work out what you're trying to make it do.

Change it.

Read, write. Read, re-write, grow with every edit.
 

Luiglin

Getting worse one day at a time
Supporter
Joined
Mar 22, 2012
Messages
2,321
Location
Mercia, UK
But you feel it's bad, so you know it's not right. Identify why YOU feel it's not right. It's your story, work out what you're trying to make it do.

Change it.

Read, write. Read, re-write, grow with every edit.

Sorry, I meant my critiques are bad. I suppose that's just practice. Although I still fear giving poor advice lol.
 

anthorn

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 5, 2006
Messages
815
Location
County Durham
I see your point, however I have found that often 'writer's groups' sometimes finds individuals who have little interest in the story (so disregard it) focusing upon what their pet-peeve is, and others want to debate it in that 'they would have' done it this way or that.

As to friends and family, I've found them however to be the least advantageous in actually helping me to improve and advance. Either they're so supportive and want to encourage you by praising every aspect, or they have been so self serving that they want to squash your desire to be creative, seeking for you to focus upon them, or whatever (would rather not go into it).

So my experiences regarding either scenario up to this point have been less than stellar.

K2

Or they offer their own ideas. Why don't you do it this way ect.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
6,858
Personally, I feel that all critique is worth having so long as you can evaluate its worth properly. I would expect the views of family and friends, especially those who haven’t read your work before, to be less valuable than that of writing groups and other writers/professionals. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get it, though.

I would particularly value the views of friends and family (but more friends than family, generally) in telling you whether the book basically functioned as a story and whether there were glaring flaws. Years ago a friend of mine noticed that the number of windows in a lighthouse changed from line to line: the “magic lighthouse” is now an in-joke between us. However, to put it bluntly, I wouldn’t trust them for advice on the finer points of novel-writing.

As to writers’ groups, they vary, but they can be very useful. Some are great (as was the one I attended), while others are just people effectively giving one another permission to write the next thousand words or so. You start to recognize certain types of people: the guy who wishes that you’d written a different story; the guy who self-published a book twenty years ago and now considers himself as an absolute authority, and so on. However, a good group can be really useful. The group I joined also had a members’ forum, where longer excepts could be posted. Professionalism is a good indicator of quality here.

I suppose there is an argument for just writing the thing as you see fit, without the input of anyone else, but I think that in the vast majority of cases (me included), the end result would be less raw genius than a raw mess. You have to know the forms before you can start breaking them, because you need to understand the effect of breaking them.
 

The Bluestocking

Bloody Mary in Blue
Joined
Feb 20, 2014
Messages
1,448
Location
The Afterlife
I belong to an excellent writing group that is both honest and encouraging - something that is a difficult line to walk for many people when they give critiques. It also helps that we all write roughly within the same genre (Fantasy but not traditional Epic Fantasy) and have a sense of humour. I also have a sub-set of friends and acquaintances who are writers themselves and are happy to do beta reading.

However, it will be over my dead body before I show my family any creative work of mine because, well, my typically ambitious Asian mother will start imagining me winning a Nobel prize in Literature (so she will keep asking and nagging me about my writing). The rest of the family already thinks I've lost my marbles when I eschewed the corporate world to run an anti-violence against women nonprofit. Learning that I write stories and novels will probably tip them over the edge into taking action to bamboozle me back into "useful work that earns tons of money".

So that's the long answer. The short answer is: Yes to asking friends who are also writers/editors/readers for feedback; HELL NO to asking family for feedback.
 

tinkerdan

∞<Q-Satis
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
5,345
Location
x² + y² = r²:when x~∞
You can work with family, as long as everyone decides that you want it done on a professional basis and you want help in improving your work and your story. However after using family(using in a benign way), you really need to get outside eyes to look at this. This is in no way feeding into the notion that family are not able to critique or that they might fear being too harsh. This is related to human nature.

You will find the same problem with your writer group over time and even your alphas and betas or whatever you call those wonderful people who will do this for you for practically nothing.

Even within this forum over time we all grow accustom to certain people's writing and we have less to offer in critique while more to offer in support. That's why it's great to get new blood in the forum: fresh eyes.

My wife and I still go through the initial edits, which can be as many as 10 rounds each. When we first started she was reluctant to express all her concerns; however she's grown to see that she's not the only one that sees these things and we really both want to get things as close to perfect as possible. However we still both miss a lot of details and grammar, spelling or word usage issues, so a new set of eyes is necessary a couple of times in the process.

All of that doesn't even include the substantive edit or possibly what a book doctor should be able to help with.

All feedback is good in some way.

Ultimately the final work falls on the author and how they accept the advice given. Even after going painstakingly through the process the author often has a moment at the end where he can still muck things up to his satisfaction.
 

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
3,331
As a generality, there's so many ways it could play out that there's not much useful advice to give other than "Depends on who your family and friends are". If you think they can be good beta readers, why not? Maybe you'll be wrong, maybe you'll be right, but all beta readers start with two people taking a chance on someone. They'll have their biases, maybe more than people met through the internet, but ultimately it's always on the writer to filter for their beta readers' biases, because all beta readers have biases. Some friend and family people are super supportive, some are super honest, some are super bleeeeeps... only one way to find out.

My specific case -

I've sought beta readers among my friends and family. Most of them have never come through. The only one that has is my mother, who is a long time genre reader/English teacher/occasional writer. She's pretty sharp about what works and what doesn't, but has her biases (she likes solid descriptions) that don't always fit with what I'm trying to achieve. More importantly, she won't listen to me saying "Just tell me what's wrong and let me work out what to fix". She always want to suggest fixes and I dislike that in betas. There'll also be the standard awkward conversation about how she thinks I should just send something somewhere and I figure I should wait until I have something I think a) has a chance and b) I wouldn't die of mortification if someone said "Oh hey, you wrote X". I sympathise with Bluestocking who clearly has it much worse.

I've also sought beta readers among writers on forums like these. That's been hugely successful and has indeed spawned a few friendships in its own right. That said, I am very aware from the crits forum that not everyone has the same tastes as me, and I've heard plenty of stories from beta readers who've felt useless because they're reading the wrong thing. Although not so much from writers who've felt their beta readers have been useless. Not every beta reader writer will work.

I'm also increasingly seeking beta readers among non-writers on forums like these, because sometimes I find writers get bogged down on technical issues where non-writers are going "This is awesome, where's the rest of it". And there's a trap that I'm going with the advice that suits my ego better... but there's also a trap that I'm spending a lot of time over the thing that 9 out of 10 of my readers simply won't care about. I want more non-writers so I can hopefully hit a better balance there.

Incidentally, I still don't have as many of either as I'd like. And as a result - I'd look for beta readers anywhere.

But only keep listening to the good ones.
 

Jay Greenstein

Science fiction & fantasy
Joined
May 27, 2018
Messages
53
Location
Elkins Park PA
Something Sol Stein said that I think relates: “Readers don’t notice point-of-view errors. They simply sense that the writing is bad.”

In other words, worry more about why the reader was moved to comment than what they think is the problem.
 

night_wrtr

Non-human Protagonist
Joined
Apr 18, 2017
Messages
383
Location
US
Leaving aside the personalities and/or relationship dynamics involved, the main disadvantage of asking family and friends for feedback is that for many of us their opinion is worth diddly-squat.

^Yep. In my own experience, friends and family can be good for a morale boost, but usually not for much technical help. I envy those of you with friends and family that are writers, readers, or simply interested.

I've tried critiquing others but I'm really bad. The end results are too wishy washy to be any use except for upping a thread's post count. I just don't want to offend anyone and/or give bad advice due to own inadequate techniques.

I'm ending up writing stuff that'll never be read.

Sorry, I meant my critiques are bad. I suppose that's just practice. Although I still fear giving poor advice lol.

Those asking for a critique should know that all feedback is not gospel and that you don't have to listen to anything. It's fun being the boss! Its the writer's job to determine what is good and what can be left on the cutting floor. As long as you don't try jabbing your finger into the writer's shoulder with knowledge, don't sweat it. :)

Certainly the more you do the more comfortable you'll get, but I always have trouble when critiquing just because I want to be as useful as possible. Its nice when there are some questions to riff off of though, like the writer wanting focus on opening lines, description, dialogue or character, etc. Makes it easier to pinpoint a few things to throw out there, but I understand the fear. Just mentioning something that stands out to you is helpful, which could make the writer see something that they hadn't before. Its happened to me quite often.

That said, my own experiences with critiques range from yay to nay, but most feedback is generally helpful in some form.
 

James Bridie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2018
Messages
70
However, it will be over my dead body before I show my family any creative work of mine because, well, my typically ambitious Asian mother will start imagining me winning a Nobel prize in Literature (so she will keep asking and nagging me about my writing). The rest of the family already thinks I've lost my marbles when I eschewed the corporate world to run an anti-violence against women nonprofit. Learning that I write stories and novels will probably tip them over the edge into taking action to bamboozle me back into "useful work that earns tons of money".

So that's the long answer. The short answer is: Yes to asking friends who are also writers/editors/readers for feedback; HELL NO to asking family for feedback.

This is a great little story in its own right, or maybe sample from a longer saga. It also leads to another topic, about family/friend/colleague expectations (maybe another thread for another day!)
 

The Bluestocking

Bloody Mary in Blue
Joined
Feb 20, 2014
Messages
1,448
Location
The Afterlife
This is a great little story in its own right, or maybe sample from a longer saga. It also leads to another topic, about family/friend/colleague expectations (maybe another thread for another day!)

Heh. Thanks.

As for stories about my family's hijinks and shenanigans? Let's just say one of my aunts asked me to not write any books about it or based on it until she has left this earthly realm.

Oh, the family drama! The saga on both sides!

(I wish I was kidding but I'm not.)
 

Similar threads


Top