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I've been creative writing all my life, though with various haitus(es) along the way. IFrom 2010 I started this blog and enjoyed sharing writing and other information with everyone. illness and bereavement supplied the more recent hiatus.

Monday 17 October 2011


Feedback is very valuable to developing one's writing AND
critiquing someone's work or receiving critiques about one's own writing can be an absolute minefield!

One of the hardest lessons I've had to learn is not to throw my toys out of the pram when others don't get my writing. I admit it. Taking a step back and considering others' comments is hard, but I realised it was an important step for me to mature as a writer.

Phil Whitaker says:

Criticism has the potential to be both inspiring and fatal  ... I’d suggest some rules of thumb. Spend a few days mulling on any criticism before drawing conclusions. If a criticism strikes a chord with you, act on it. If it doesn’t, but if several critics have touched on the same thing, consider very carefully whether to act on it. If a criticism really doesn’t strike a chord, and particularly if no one else has picked up on it, probably ignore it. Lastly, you may find critics evenly divided on an issue, as many pro as con. These are the trickiest to navigate: go with what your instincts tell you.

The Feedback Sandwich approach, suggests sandwiching positive comments before and after polite, constructive advice, which is a good rule of thumb, but not something we all always get right. I know I don't.

How do you approach feedback?

  • Do you say something anodyne to soothe the author of the piece?
  • Do you give specific examples of why you have made certain comments?
  • Do you seek to help or improve others' writing with your comments?
  • Do you always get the balance right?

    Shelly Sly's recent blogpost sums up the negative side of criticism. Rejection isn't failure!

Check out My Fiction Addicion for some great critique group listings

I hate it when others don't get my writing or when they make comments that clearly show they haven't read it properly. How do you cope? 


  1. I like the feedback sandwich. It's important to be encouraging as well as point out the areas of improvement.

  2. If I have to give feedback I like the sandwich method. I try to give examples as to what I'm talking about but sometimes it really is just a personal preference, in which case I'll make that clear.

  3. I don't always get the balance right, but I do try. I especially try to remember that people can't learn when they are hurting, so the criticism needs to be gentle...but true, so they can hear the truth of it as well.

  4. I am totally rubbish at constructive critical feedback. I feel so unqualified as a critiquer so I just see the good and always always say good things (that I mean)!

    I absolutely am very grateful for constructive feedback from others though for my stories but I know to grow a thick, thick skin! LOL! Take care

  5. I try to give the positive with the things that need work. But I'm also careful if I don't think the individual can handle the news. This became an necessity after one person I was beta reading for blew up at me when I pointed out a number of things in her book where cliches. Good thing I never mentioned that I hated her mc. That definitely wouldn't have ended well.

  6. I also sandwich if I critique. I don't feel I'm immensely qualified yet, to do anything in-depth but I'll ask if something needs clarifying for me. I never say anything unkind as that's unnecessary and does nothing for either party.

  7. I haven't sent my work out to anyone besides my first reader yet. But when I beta I try to tell the author what worked for me and what I enjoyed first and foremost...we all need that. Then I point out anything that didn't work and/or offer possible changes. And I always try to keep my comments from being personal attacks.

    May I just say it's refreshing to see someone use "pram"! I used to get so many strange looks when I'd say pram or pram quilt, LOL.

  8. A Feedback Sandwich would be great right about now. Then again, maybe I'm just hungry...

    Anyhoo, I always try to be balanced in crits. I know how it feels to be invested in my work, so I try to avoid destroying the souls of others. :)

  9. I think its important to choose one's critique readers very carefully, and make sure they are your demographic. Don't give a sci fi/ fantasy writer your women's fiction ms for example. (And vice versa). Unless we're talking about professionals, most of us writers and readers have a hard time judging work that's outside our own genres.

  10. I try to be as kind as possible and always point out that I mess up on writing too. We all need each other to navigate through the tunnel vision. :)

  11. I've never critiqued, but I like the idea of the Feedback Sandwich; it sounds like a good way to approach your thoughts on someone else's work.

  12. Hi Madeleine

    Great, timely post. I think no matter how CPs or open critiques as we have at RFWer are set up, we do need to revisit the guidelines from time to time. The sandwich is just good manners in all parts of our life.

    I'd never set out to deliberately hurt someone as we must remember it's taken the writer often ages to create a piece, then the brave act of putting it out there shouldn't be met with a blast! That's not critiquing. Positive, then positive suggestions in polite language, then something nice to finish. Not everyone agrees, but that's the way I like to do it and have it done to me.

    Thanks for post.


  13. I love the idea of a feedback sandwich. I remember being in a horrific crit group years ago, and they did not give out such sandwiches. It was not a pretty sight. It's important for a writer to know his/her areas of weakness, but still know there's merit in the writing.

  14. I won't sugarcoat my crits, but neither will I be overly caustic.

    Since I've been with my regular CPs for so long, we're a bit more frank when we assess, but we truly want the best for each other, so none of us takes it personally.

    But with new people I try to be a little less scary. :)

  15. I like the sound of the sandwich approach. I think it wont be as harsh as pointing out someone's fault outright.

  16. I always appreciate positive comments when others give me feedback. The negative comments are harder to take, but so important! I like the advice in this post about how to take negative comments, we don't always need to act on them.

  17. It's important to give positive, and to be honest. I try to be respectful when giving my comments, realizing the writer slaved over what I read. I make sure they understand my intent is to help them create the best piece possible. It still isn't easy.

    In my local group, we can sit around and laugh. We all know we genuinely like each other. That helps, too.

  18. Yes, I do the sandwich method. You have to reinforce if you are giving constuctive criticism that may be less than pleasant.

  19. I'm convinced I don't always get the balance right. But I always try to be constructive AND NICE. I don't want to be a bitch, but I DO want to be helpful, useful and honest.

    I've been on the receiving end of some extremely harsh (and rude) criticism, and yeah this person went a bit overboard, but their criticism really stuck with me and had the most impact (and yes, in the end it was a positive impact).

  20. If I have to give feedback, I say the good things first. Then I start with what I think is missing or wrong. This way the sting is minimized as the writer is basking in the warmth of the praise.

  21. Madeleine, I came back to see what the consensus was and it looks like I wasn't too far off with the feedback sandwich. Some RFWers have taken up your suggestion and have been clearer after their posts as to what they expect in criticism.

    If you can't post this week for Whispers I hope you can make it for Haunting. That should be so exciting. We are getting some lovely stories/poems for Whispers.


  22. I like getting constructive criticism, but don't get too much of it. I give a fair amount of it to people involved with my Limerick-Offs because they seem to appreciate it and want it. Other than that, I often hesitate to give constructive criticism because I don't know how welcome it will be.

  23. yeah, comments which show they haven't read the piece properly are just annoying. I tend to find new critique partners or send them shorter pieces to critique rather than a large wad. They will more likely stay focussed that way.


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