Like most things, writing is a craft you can improve by practice. The more you write, the better you will become at the process of writing. But how do you know what you’re writing is worth other people reading it? One way is through writing response groups.
Response groups can be informal, such as a group of family members and friends who will read your work and provide feedback. Others use more formal groups comprised of other writers, editors and publishers.
I have made use of both. I’m married to an English major who red pens everything I write. I also have a wonderful neighbor, a local school administrator who is just as active with her edits. Add in a couple of close friends who don’t mind telling me when my writing is lacking, and I have a good head start on improving my writing.
I also belong to more formal groups. One of the best one in the state of Kentucky is the Green River Writers. The Bluegrass Writers Edge is another group I have used to critique my work.
But the one I learned the most from is a group which no longer exists, the Creative Writers Workshop, headed by my writing mentor Dewey Hensley, one of the commonwealth’s top educators. Dewey gave us a tip on how to garner the best responses from people who read our work.
He said there are three questions you should ask when want feedback:
What did you like? What did you not like? And, what would you change?
You always start by asking what people liked about the story. Doing this will make it easier for them to answer the second question, especially if there is a LOT they don’t like about your work in progress. People generally want to be supportive and this gives them a chance to let you know they really like what you’re doing, even if they have some questions about parts of the story.
Which leads us to the second question, what they didn’t like. After taking the carrot, out comes the stick. It’s important to have a thick skin when it comes to how people answer this question. Just because it makes sense in your mind what the hero is doing to save the day, it may not be making it to the page as clearly. I have found people will quickly find the logic holes you didn’t if you are willing to listen.
The third question, what would you change, will offer ideas you may not have considered. The great thing is, this is your work. You can pick and choose which, if any, suggestions you take to heart. But getting a wide range of opinions can only help your writing.
Asking these three simple questions has helped me get back wonderful feedback which has improved my writing by leaps and bounds. I encourage every writer to join a writer’s response group. Now take a moment and leave a response. When you do, let me know what you liked about this article, what you didn’t and what you would change. Seriously. Go ahead. Respond away.