How to give and receive feedback

April 17, 2015

Give and receive in the spirit of generosity. Find where the energy is in the text and offer your appreciation before you express prescriptive comments for revision.


How to introduce your writing sample to your writer's group:

  • Provide a one minute summary of the narrative action. Let this summary be neutral.

  • What kind of story is this?

  • What defining choice(s) does the main character face?

  • What is the conflict, crisis and resolution?


Tips for how to give feedback:

  • Read the text twice. The first time, simply read. The second time, read with pen in hand.

  • In the margins, make comments, observations and suggestions. Do not proofread or line edit.

  • Focus on and identify the writer’s strengths, interesting subject matter, pleasing shape of the text, and examples of vivid detail. What are your favorite lines of text?

  • Don’t descend into “I like” or “I dislike.”

  • How sympathetic is the reader towards the main character?


Tips for how to receive feedback:

  • Be still and take a deep breath as you listen.

  • Take every suggestion IN with a breath.

  • Do not defend your text. Answer only what you’ve been asked.

  • Listen with complete receptivity. 

  • What you resist may be what you most need to hear.

  • Let the good will of the critique sink in.

  • Breath out and reject feedback that doesn’t speak to you or serve you. (Ask yourself if the reader’s comments are irrelevant or destructive to your process?)

  • All feedback is golden.


On an index card or last sheet of the manuscript:

  • Line 1: Write a brief summary of the narrative action of the text.

  • Line 2: Choose one or two lines from the text that resonate or move you (with a focus on vivid detail and imagery).

  • Line 3: How does this writer’s text inform your own writing? What did you learn from this discussion?





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