How to Give Constructive FeedbackbyMagicaPractica©
As a writer for Literotica, I love getting positive feedback. It sends a little tingle through my whole body and makes me glow. But I'm not foolish enough to think that my writing doesn't have room for improvement. Even the best writers have at least a quarter inch or so where they could improve. I know I have at least a quarter mile to go. One of the best tools I have to improve my writing is when someone takes the time to give me constructive feedback.
Now, hearing what is wrong with your writing can be hard to take. On a good day, I grin sheepishly and say, "yeah, I need to work on that." On a bad day, it can make me cringe and want hide under the bed covers. Thankfully, there is a simple method to giving constructive feedback that anyone can use to correct and yet encourage a writer at the same time.
Be Encouraging ~ Find two things you like about a piece of writing, no matter how small. If you're going to tell them what they did wrong, tell them something they did right first. It can be a particular turn of phrase that flowed nicely, a description or a line of dialogue. Even if it's just the color of the main character's hat, find something. It will encourage the writer who needs building up and may help keep the writer who really needs help from getting defensive.
That being said, don't lie. You can state your encouragement in a positive though non-effusive manner if the story really needs a lot of work. Having some people tell a writer how outrageously wonderful their story is and then other people say it stinks like chicken shit is either going to confuse and dispirit the writer or build up a false belief in their skills. Simply using the phrases "I enjoyed" or "I liked" allows you to offer praise without being fake about it.
Be Constructive ~ Pick two things for the writer to work on that will most improve their writing. Focus on the things you think are most distracting to the reader. You do not need to respond to every single thing you see wrong in a piece of writing. The more help the piece needs, the more general you can be. If you really want to tell them everything you see wrong with the story, offer to edit it for them. Then don't be offended if they say, "no, thanks."
Be specific in your constructive criticisms. "It's boring" or "I couldn't get into it" are not only a little tactless, they are pretty much useless bits of criticism. You need to explain yourself. "I found it boring because... there was not enough dialogue." "I couldn't get into it because... you changed tenses several times in the first three paragraphs." Be specific in your criticisms or they are useless to the writer.
Have a little tact while you're at it. One of my favorite words, tact. There is simply no need to be rude! Tact is not about pussyfooting around or neglecting to say what so clearly needs to be said. It is about stating things in a polite way that shows respect for another person's feelings. Have you noticed that people in your life bristle at your suggestions? Or have stopped listening to you at all? It may be that you need a little tact. Neglect to use some tact and the writer you are commenting on has every right to disregard you as either, at best, a tactless jerk or, at worst, a troll. It can also make all the relationships in your life run a little smoother, I promise.
Taking the time to read and vote is a kindness in itself. If you don't have much to say but enjoyed the story, then leave a little positive comment. If you notice some things that could have been done better, please take the time to send constructive feedback. This is a simple way to encourage quality writing on Literotica. Share your expertise in this area as often as you are able. There may be some who are not appreciative but, if done with a modicum of tact, most will listen, learn and be very grateful for your help.
*Bill Cosby, "Noah: Me and you, Lord." The Best of Bill Cosby. Warner Bros. Records Inc., 1969.