Creating Constructive FeedbackbyZanzibar©
Authors, how many times have you wondered why people thought the way they did about your story? How many times have you looked at the information about your story and wonder why it got voted a 1 or a 5? How many times have you gotten feedback that provided no real information about why they thought your story was good, bad or indifferent?
Readers, how many of you that feel that telling someone their story is great, or that it reeks, is providing feedback that is useful to the author? How many of you feel great because you took the time to click on that form and add a few words? And you know something? It IS a great thing, and as an author I know I appreciate it. But there is a way to make those few moments even more effective, and become someone who authors will love to see comments from. Learn how to provide 'constructive' feedback instead of just positive or negative feedback.
Many times, I've gotten feedback such as:
"I love it, it was great."
"That sucked, why do you write such crap?"
All of the above are forms of feedback. The first two positive, and the latter negative... but none of them were constructive feedback. Why did they love it? Why was it good? Why did it suck? From what those readers wrote, I really got no idea of what moved them, good or bad.
'Constructive' feedback consists of identifying those items that stood out from the story, good or bad, and relating them to the author in a way that they know why it made you feel the way it did. Why did it move you? Why did it make you excited, angry, happy, upset, delighted, disgusted or horny?
'Constructive' feedback also provides the author with your comments in a manner designed to identify strengths or shortcomings in such a way that not offensive or emotional. It sticks to the facts of the story without attacking the author. This is especially important when identifying things you consider to be shortcomings in a story.
When I read something like - "Your story sucked, asswipe! Why do you write such crap?" I personally tend to just toss it in the trash with the remainder unread. That's the common response most people have when they feel attacked by someone – an immediate defensive reaction is to stop paying attention to what the writer is saying and fight back, or defend yourself.
When I read something like - "The main characters in your story lacked any depth and I couldn't really relate to them. That kept me from getting into your story." - or - "The way you kept switching between past and present tense in your story really made it hard to follow." I get a much clearer picture of what a reader didn't like in a story and it's presented in a manner that doesn't immediately make me react defensively. It makes me go back and look at my story and see where I made those mistakes, or think of ways to strength my writing style to make my stories more enjoyable to the readers. Those are examples of negative reactions presented in a constructive manner, to help an author become a better writer.
Positive feedback with specific instances of what moved you help reinforce good things in an author's style. Examples of some positive constructive feedback are: "I liked the way you build up the suspense." "I knew exactly how the woman in your story felt because of your vivid imagery in describing her thoughts." "I liked the way you used rich descriptive phrases in your story to show me what was going on." All three examples pointed out specific things that the reader enjoyed and made the story a better experience for them. That tells me what I am doing right! It's important for me as an author to know what my readers enjoy most as well, so I can continue to include that in my stories, or work to make that even richer for my readers.
So in summary – the best forms of constructive feedback will provide an author with the following:
1) The name of the work in question.
2) What you enjoyed, or didn't enjoy about the work.
3) Why you did, or didn't enjoy it.
4) If possible, a specific example of what you identified in 2 or 3.
As an author myself, I have found constructive feedback has been a great help to me – when I have been able to get it. It's incredibly valuable in helping me identify strong aspects of my writings that hook the reader and have them wanting more, as well as point out areas where I need more work.
I feel that's an important aspect for any author - Knowing what they are doing well, as well as knowing flaws in their writings that need work. After all, that's why I write... to paint a picture in a reader's mind that they can follow and see in a clear, imaginative manner. Everything that helps me do that in a more effective manner makes me a better author, and hopefully provides better stories for the readers to enjoy. And that's why we're all here, isn't it?