|I have a small, trusted circle of critique partners. I know I’m lucky, they’re hard to come by. I met two at Writers’ Studio at UCLA, a couple of years ago, and I count them dear friends. Two others, I met when I began volunteering for Field’s End, a non-profit literary event group. In all cases, I found my partners by magic, or universal synchronicity, or dumb luck–I really don’t what alchemy transforms strangers to trusted allies. All I can I say is it is extremely difficult to both find and BE a good critique partner. That’s why I’m sharing ideas from author and HGTV-writer Cara Lopez Lee’s excellent post, Feedback with Compassionate Detachment.
Here are excerpts:
“I’ve discovered that providing feedback with the goal of serving both writer and story can be fast and easy, if you know how…
Creative writing is always deeply personal, fiction or non, and I’ve learned that’s why it’s important for feedback to be both compassionate and detached.
I’ve since developed a reputation among coaching clients, writing colleagues, and students for giving feedback that encourages and motivates. Here are a few tips that have helped me:
1. Take responsibility for your opinion by emphasizing “I” statements over “you” statements.
2. Address what you observe in the writing rather than your opinion of the writer.
3. Spend less time making suggestions than asking questions.
4. Clarify that your intention is to serve the story, not to prove you’re right. Try phrases like, “As a reader…” or “From an audience’s perspective…”
5. Instead of pointing out what’s missing, ask for more information.
6. Offer no more than three challenges the author faces to take the writing to the next level. It can be difficult to remember more, and the writer may shut down.
7. Try to spend as much time on strengths as challenges. It’s important for writers to recognize what’s working, so they can lean into that. What’s more, writers who regularly receive feedback want to know whether their changes are effective.
“By giving feedback with compassionate detachment, I’ve discovered something unexpected,” says Lee. “When I emphasize what’s working and simply ask questions about the rest, my students improve faster.”