Over the last few years, from time to time, I've been contacted by people who want to write or have written something and want me to give them feedback on their work. I have always agreed to do this even though I have always felt a little uncomfortable with this role.
I mean, who am I to assess and give feedback on someone else's creative expression? Sure, I'm a writer and I've had a few things published but in my opinion this doesn't qualify me to say whether or not something is worth publishing, or has potential. (What does that even mean anyway?)
It's my belief that if you have something to say, there's an audience who wants to hear it. Or read it. But you first have to finish what it is you want to say. And if you really want to know whether your work is of any interest, let your audience or lack thereof, tell you.
Although keep in mind, the size of an audience doesn't always reflect the quality of the writing. There are lots of unknown great writers just as there are lots of well known not-so-great writers.
Feedback is important. I always give a finished manuscript to a few trusted people to read. Their comments are invaluable. In fact, I spent a year on a book that never saw the light of day based on the feedback I received from these trusted advisors.
These are finished pieces of work that have been finished to the best of my ability, and these are people I trust and respect implicitly who fit within my target market.
Because here's the thing about feedback: it's just as subjective as the writing itself.
I've had a professional editor who worked on one of my books, call my writing 'whiney and self-indulgent'. And, in her defense, I'm sure it is at times. But this is part of my writing style and it's a style that some people (certainly not all) enjoy and can relate to. Also, that particular book which that particular editor was referring to has been picked up by my now publisher and is being re-released this year, which goes to show...
I've also received feedback from a bestselling author who read one of my manuscripts and went on to tell me that he thought it 'common, pedestrian and a little bit boring'. To be honest, I laughed when I read his comments because they were so brazenly honest (I mean, who says that?). I even wanted to put his comments on the back cover of the book that has since been picked up by a publisher and is being released this year. Again, which goes to show...
My point is that just because I'm a writer does not necessarily qualify me to read your work and comment on it. For starters, I might not be in your target market. And that's in addition to the fact that I suck at grammar and I still don't know exactly where the comma is supposed to go. Rather I tend to feel my way through a sentence and hope for the best. Oh and I always work with an editor. (Ideally one that doesn't think my work is whiney and self indulgent.)
So, if you're thinking of becoming a writer and you want someone to give you feedback, here's what I can offer:
1. Finish whatever it is you are working on. Finish it to the best of your ability.
2. Seek out a person who you trust implicitly AND who fits within your target market.
3. Thank the person for agreeing to read your work and providing you with their comments, even if you don't agree with them. Remember they have given up their time that they could have spent doing a thousand other things to help you along.
And then most importantly...
4. You decide whether it's good enough to put out into the world. At the end of the day, when it comes to writing or any creative pursuit, it's your opinion as the creator that is the one that matters the most.*
* I think there should have been another comma in that sentence but I can't be sure and who really cares anyway?