When to start asking for feedback and critiques?

emrosenagel

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I'm about 75% finished with my first draft and I'm just wondering when is a good time to start getting feedback? Should I wait until I'm finished with the first draft or even the second? Or is it all just a matter of personal preference.

Thanks!
Em
 

zmunkz

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Personal preference and experience.

If this is your first novel, I’d encourage you to finish it before you start getting feedback. Most new writers (myself included) have a very hard time focusing on that ending once people start pointing out all the ways the beginning can be made much stronger.
 

emrosenagel

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Personal preference and experience.

If this is your first novel, I’d encourage you to finish it before you start getting feedback. Most new writers (myself included) have a very hard time focusing on that ending once people start pointing out all the ways the beginning can be made much stronger.
Ah, excellent point. I probably would obsess over making changes before it was done. Thank you so much!
 

Steve Harrison

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Much like @zmunks, I don't let anyone read a novel manuscript until it's finished and I've edited the hell out of it until I feel it's as good as it's ever going to get (i.e. the point when the real editing starts!). By doing this I'm not tempted to do any more work on the book until I receive the feedback.

I used to let people read partial manuscripts, but found there was nothing worse than getting notes while the work was still in progress. I like to live in a dream world and assume the work is brilliant while I'm writing.

I should also note that I have experienced writer friends who are quite happy to ask me to read a novel opening, a chapter or section of their novels, but they usually want me to look at something specific to do with an issue they have identified. I couldn't do that, though.
 

reiver33

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Somewhere along the way I absorbed the notion that the opening has to be the 2nd strongest part of a story, topped only by the ending, so its the start of a story I tend to seek a critique of. Feedback along the way does change - sometimes radically - how the intermediate plot develops, as I'm not a planner; image of the start, image of the finish, hopefully a few scenes along the way, and off I go.
 

Kerrybuchanan

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I’d agree with the above.

Finish it first and give it a quick read-through for any glaring typos/plot holes/character inconsistencies. Then I’d add (and this will be hard, I’m afraid), put it away for a while. Maybe work on something else before you get it out out and try to read it as a reader, seeing it for the first time.*

Once you’ve sorted all the glaring errors you missed on the first pass, it’s time to let someone else read it.

I’m not suggesting you’re a slapdash writer who makes hundreds of careless mistakes, but over a novel-length work, errors creep in despite our best efforts and they’re usually hard for the writer to spot because the writer knows what they MEANT to say, and that clouds their perception!

*And now I have the tune of a very old Madonna song playing on repeat in my head. :LOL:
 

marcmizz

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I agree with the above, too. At the moment, my first novel is being reviewed, but it's been more than a year since I finished my first draft. I went over it again and again, and found tons of mistakes that I had initially missed (typos, plot holes, scene / lore inconsistencies, and of course, the dreaded missing to's and of's!). During review, more mistakes will emerge, but that's normal — some errors will be overlooked no matter how many times you go over your own work!
 

The Judge

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I'd also advise that you wait a while, especially if this is your first attempt at writing a novel. Receiving feedback can be painful and the less experienced one is, the more it hurts. Even feedback that's well-meaning and well-phrased (and not all is) can feel like a knife going in and "This doesn't work for me" is immediately mistranslated as "You're a crap writer".

Sooner or later you'll have to get fully padded up and walk out onto the pitch to face the fast bowling** but to my mind it's best to wait until you've finished the work, since feedback can be so dispiriting that there's a real danger you lose all interest in completing the story. Actually, I'd go further and advise you not to get feedback on this first novel until you've written something else, which isn't your "baby" in quite the same way, and you've had feedback on that second piece. In that way, you'll get some general advice on writing, which will help you in revising novel 1, but the critiques won't poison your love for it.

As to which, we run Writing Challenges for short stories here, both monthly and quarterly, and when the specific Challenge is over then entrants can put up their story in an "Improving" thread and get feedback on that short piece. That's an ideal way to dip one's toes into receiving critiques, which can help one grow a thicker skin and, of course, joining in and writing the stories in the first place is all good experience. Meanwhile, also have a look at the kind of feedback our members can give you in our Critiques section.

And before I forget, Welcome to the Chrons!



** sorry, lapsing into cricketing imagery there, but adjust the terminology for the sport of your choice!
 

emrosenagel

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I'd also advise that you wait a while, especially if this is your first attempt at writing a novel. Receiving feedback can be painful and the less experienced one is, the more it hurts. Even feedback that's well-meaning and well-phrased (and not all is) can feel like a knife going in and "This doesn't work for me" is immediately mistranslated as "You're a crap writer".

Sooner or later you'll have to get fully padded up and walk out onto the pitch to face the fast bowling** but to my mind it's best to wait until you've finished the work, since feedback can be so dispiriting that there's a real danger you lose all interest in completing the story. Actually, I'd go further and advise you not to get feedback on this first novel until you've written something else, which isn't your "baby" in quite the same way, and you've had feedback on that second piece. In that way, you'll get some general advice on writing, which will help you in revising novel 1, but the critiques won't poison your love for it.

As to which, we run Writing Challenges for short stories here, both monthly and quarterly, and when the specific Challenge is over then entrants can put up their story in an "Improving" thread and get feedback on that short piece. That's an ideal way to dip one's toes into receiving critiques, which can help one grow a thicker skin and, of course, joining in and writing the stories in the first place is all good experience. Meanwhile, also have a look at the kind of feedback our members can give you in our Critiques section.

And before I forget, Welcome to the Chrons!



** sorry, lapsing into cricketing imagery there, but adjust the terminology for the sport of your choice!
Thank you so much! This is great advice. I wouldn't want to give up on my current novel, it means too much to me. So I will need some thicker skin first! I'll be checking out those challenges. And thanks for the welcome, I'm glad to be here!
 

HareBrain

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I will need some thicker skin first!

Do you have friends or family who are interested in what you're doing? Serious critique from other writers can be quite demoralising at first (though it's also invaluable) but when I was starting out, I found that being able to say "well at least [name of friend] liked it" was comforting to some extent. The danger is giving their feedback the same weight. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it any weight.

Eventually you'll learn whose feedback is most worth seeking out, but that's a long road.
 

emrosenagel

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Do you have friends or family who are interested in what you're doing? Serious critique from other writers can be quite demoralising at first (though it's also invaluable) but when I was starting out, I found that being able to say "well at least [name of friend] liked it" was comforting to some extent. The danger is giving their feedback the same weight. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it any weight.

Eventually you'll learn whose feedback is most worth seeking out, but that's a long road.
Yes, my entire family is waiting in the rafters to read my work! I'm just always convinced they won't give me any real feedback because they don't want to hurt my feelings. Luckily, my cousin is an author -- though an academic one -- and he may be able to help quite a bit.
 

HareBrain

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I'm just always convinced they won't give me any real feedback because they don't want to hurt my feelings.

That's possibly true, and you certainly shouldn't rely on their feedback alone. But writing can be a solitary business, and having a few people who are enthusiastic about your work, even if they can't be objective about it, can be a big help for motivation.
 

JS Wiig

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As to which, we run Writing Challenges for short stories here, both monthly and quarterly, and when the specific Challenge is over then entrants can put up their story in an "Improving" thread and get feedback on that short piece. That's an ideal way to dip one's toes into receiving critiques, which can help one grow a thicker skin and, of course, joining in and writing the stories in the first place is all good experience.
I infinitely second this advice. Participating in the challenges has been an eye opener for me, not the least is learning to not take another reader’s perception of my work personally. The first few times I read a critique it took a day or two to get over the perceived attack on my value as a human being. It has definitely gotten easier, and is (maybe?) making me a better writer.

You also get to learn about rejection when your baby doesn’t get the vast mentions and votes it truly deserves. “These unsophisticated simpletons just don’t understand my work!” Nah, that’s probably not it.
 
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Biskit

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Definitely wait until it is finished, and edited to the best of your ability.

I’m not suggesting you’re a slapdash writer who makes hundreds of careless mistakes, but over a novel-length work, errors creep in despite our best efforts and they’re usually hard for the writer to spot because the writer knows what they MEANT to say, and that clouds their perception!
Finding mistakes is a devil of a job, whether plot, grammar or awkward writing. One thing to seriously consider doing before you hand it to anyone else to read, is read it aloud to yourself. It is time-consuming, but the process of actually saying the words really improves your chances of seeing what is there rather than having your brain silently auto-correct and move on. I do multiple read-aloud passes of my books, the Biskitetta reads and comments multiple times and we still find things wrong later.
One of the things that the read-aloud really helps with is sentence structure and the general flow of the prose. If it's hard to read aloud then you ought to consider rephrasing.
(I originally got this piece of advice from Jo Fletcher who was commissioning editor at Gollancz at the time.)


Luckily, my cousin is an author -- though an academic one -- and he may be able to help quite a bit.
That's an interesting one. My own background is in physical sciences and I still have to keep that style in abeyance when writing fiction.
 

JohnM

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As a working editor, a few thoughts. Finish it. Then let others look at it. Since writing is seen as something rare, as opposed to average jobs/interests, family and friends will be biased. When I edit a manuscript, I read it aloud in my head. Take your time. No need to rush.

Don't become over-reliant on automatic/computer fixes. You should develop confidence in your own ability to correct errors. If a sentence sounds wrong, then describe what you are trying to say to yourself. "Do I mean this? Or Do I mean that?"

As a contributing writer, I have found I can isolate particularly difficult problems for review the next day or several days later. And I usually find that an answer will just come to me.

Since I also serve as an assistant art director, I have found that it is artists who take criticism well. The problem with writers is that it's all black ink on paper. And the terms I might use, like pacing, flow, and meshing scenes, are unfamiliar to beginning writers. I have had phone calls where I say "The pacing is off." and I can tell by the non-response that the person on the other end has no idea what I'm talking about. There's also this strange idea that writers can fix such things. If you don't know what it is, how will you fix it?

Again, take your time. Constructive criticism is not the end of the world. Learn your craft. Yes, writing, like learning to draw, can be taught to anyone willing to put in the time.
 

Amy-rose

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For me it depends on a lot of factors. If I feel confident the work is fair with few problems I'll carry on myself and get feedback back when I find myself sitting editing and not changing anything. Then I reached as far as I can with my experience in editing. Sometimes I will ask for feedback even before I've done a line edit or an in-depth grammar check because something is wrong somewhere but I lack the experience to know what it is. Seems pointless doing a huge grammar check when the content has a problem. I don't have a lot of experience in writing I just know when something feels 'off'.
 

Astro Pen

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There is an online business adage that 1 bad review will negate 40 good ones. A similar rule, for me at least, applies to the psychology of critiques.
Unless you have the skin of a rhino I would tread carefully on going straight for WIP critiques.

I would suggest going for the writing challenges here for a few months first. That will give you a fair insight into how your style of writing is received by the group. You can get feedback on the flash entries after each contest on the "Improving our 75, 100 or 300 word stories" threads.
It will also give you chance to "judge the judges" and note, secretly, who 'gets' your work, who doesn't (and who may be punching above their critical weight:whistle: )

If you feel robust go for it when you hit your 30 posts but there will almost certainly be criticisms, so pack the kleenex and/or gin when you set off down that road.:)
 

W Collier

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There is another thread going on on this forum revolving around Stephen King's On Writing, and the best answer to the OP question is to read that and do what it says. At least for your first book, there's nothing in his memoir that will do anything but steer you right. Once you've followed his advice all the way through, at least once, for one complete work, faithfully, then you can decide if you want to experiment with deviations. King would say, finish your first draft, let it sit for a while, then go back through it at least once, before you even give it to your one closest and most trusted critic. Only your third draft should ever see the light of multiple readers. Is that the only path? Maybe not. But it would be sheer hubris for me to say that I, some joker working on his first novel, know better than one of the best-selling and best-regarded novelists of all time. Until we are master pilots ourselves, with at least a thousand hours to our name, we all would do well to be good flight students: fly the pattern the way the instructor pilot says, exactly as he says, to the finest detail, at least once, and see it work and understand why it works, before thinking ourselves wise enough to come up with our own way.

(The brilliance of On Writing is that he never tells you how to write or what to write. It's not a book about "writing like Stephen King." He just tells you how to produce the truth of your story, your idea, most skillfully.)

Also, distinguish your genuine desire for criticism from your (much more likely, much more prevalent) human appetite for validation. 99.999% of the voice in you suggesting you should "get feedback" is lying. What it really wants is for another human being to tell you that you're doing good, to acknowledge your work and give you moral support. You're alone in unfamiliar territory, outside your comfort zone, and you want dem strokes, as the transactional psychologists would say, to salve your nerves. What you're feeling, no matter how much your own brain tries to tell you that it's a desire for genuine constructive feedback, is probably in reality that latter, lesser impulse, and if that's even possible, then you need to assume it's so and keep going on your own, for the sake of your story. If you really want your work to be yours, if you want your story to be truthful to itself and to you, you have to convince yourself to finish it without someone else reading it and helping you along. Stick with blind validation if you need validation. Here, I'll even give you some right now: I have never seen your work, I have no idea what it's about, but I hereby declare you're doing a good thing by writing it; stick with it. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I validate thee. Carry on.
 

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