Getting feedback for your work

. 2 min read

If you do creative, artistic work, giving your work for someone else for objective review is really helpful if you're looking either to get an outsider's opinion or to improve yourself. You can think your work is good, but there's a chance you're the only one that thinks that way. That doesn't necessarily mean that your work is bad; sometimes it just means that you can see the whole in a way that a person who didn't take part in the creation process didn't. And you might want those other people understand at least a part of that big picture the same way as you; the way you meant the work to be interpreted as you created it.

So I gave my recently finished novel, Thomas, up for review to a friend last January. And what happened? Well, getting feedback took four months. This can mean one or two of two things:

  1. The work was below par, and the reviewer found the read an obligation instead of joy, and/or
  2. The reviewer wanted to postpone the moment of giving the feedback for fear of hurting my feelings.

(There is a hypothetical third option, that the reviewer found the read amazing and wanted to save it for later, but that was both improbable and not the actual case.)

I had to push the friend to get it done and get the feedback. And it was crushing. The characters behaved in ways that weren't natural to them. Some events happened too quickly. Some events were completely unnecessary. The narrator's dialogue with himself was irritating. And, most importantly, the reviewer didn't like my style of writing.

The last one hit hard. Isn't your style of writing at the very core of your talent - or, what you thought was talent? Isn't your style the thing?

To my excuse, the style of writing was new to me as well - I had to narrate all the events through the head of a person who was, even though physically an adult, at the mental stage of a child or that of a person with less than average intelligence, and I felt compelled to include the narrator's inner dialogue that at times reflected the narrator's need to sound like an adult and at times let his thoughts flow unfiltered. And reading the manuscript for another time, I admit, he sounds like a pain in the ass. Who would want to listen to the train of thought of someone like that?

I saw what the reviewer had meant; and this leads to a whole other problem. So I edit the narrator to be someone whose thoughts you'd like to hear? But then the whole story would change. Do I edit out some thoughts? The reader might not learn to hate the narrator the way I wanted him to be hated. Do I cut out all that's unnecessary and see if I can still make him the bad guy? Now that's something.

Get feedback. Analyze your work with that external review in mind. Realize that the feedback isn't meant as criticism to you but as tips to help you improve the work. And the work is external; it's its own entity.

You hold the power to improve it.