Getting feedback from fellow writers is a critical way to help your work reach its full potential. But when, how, and with whom should you share your WIP? Here are some things to consider before you share your pages.
Be Ready. Sharing a manuscript when you’re still discovering the story, can derail your creative process and stymie the entire project. If you’re still sorting out plot elements or discovering your characters, consider forming a brainstorming critique group first. Get together with a few trusted authors to talk through your stories and generate ideas about plot, character – whatever element is troubling you. If you know your story well before you invite feedback, you’ll know better how to use the comments you get.
Be ready, also, to receive feedback about your work. It can feel uncomfortable to let others read, let alone comment, on a work in progress. In addition to the tips below, you need to be open to hearing feedback – some of which may surprise you or hurt your feelings. If you’ve reached a wall – there are things wrong with your WIP, but you can’t quite put your finger on what they are – a quality critique group might help you break through that wall. But you’ll need to be open to hearing feedback in order for it to do any good.
Be Picky. Here’s the bottom line: it is a privilege for someone else to read your work. If you suspect a potential critique partner or beta reader doesn’t see it that way, think twice before sharing your pages with them. It’s not easy to hear what’s wrong with your pages. If you trust the intentions of the people that are giving you feedback, you’ll be more likely to hear the tidbit that will spark a new idea, or let the comments give rise to a new approach to a problem that’s been bugging you.
Getting Defensive? Let it Pass. Some of the feedback I’ve initially had the strongest reaction against turned out to be what improved my work the most. When feedback first comes in, sit with it for a while until you can consider it not from a place of emotion, but from the perspective of what best serves your story. Remember that ultimately you are the one who gets to decide which changes to make, but at times we can also be too close to our stories. Seeing it from the perspective of another trusted author can be the jolt needed to shake things loose.
Have you had experience with a critique group? If so, share your experience! What worked for you? What trouble spots did you run into? How did you find the right people to work with? What advice would you give others? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.