Did anyone catch last week’s Gossip Girl? The one where Dan wants Vanessa to give him feedback on something he’s writing?
Here’s the gist–Dan is a writer and Vanessa makes films. Dan and Vanessa used to be best friends. Now Dan and Vanessa are dating.
In last week’s episode Dan was working on an application to get into a special writing program at college. He’s having a bit of writer’s block, so Vanessa offers to look over his work for him (something she used to do all the time before they were dating). But now Dan is terrified to give Vanessa his work. So, Vanessa trades with him–she gives him a script she’s working on to critique in exchange for his. But here’s the clincher–Dan reads Vanessa’s script and thinks it’s terrible. What does he do? He lies and say she loves it, but when they were just BFF’s and not girlfriend/boyfriend, he admits he would have told her the truth.
Hmm. This made me think of every time I’ve tried getting the hubby to give me feedback. I’m so afraid to send stuff to him. What if he hates it? What if hating it means he thinks less of me in some way? Usually I get over it though and give him the first few chapters of my projects to see if the story I’m working on is any good. He’s been afraid to tell me when he doesn’t like something but he’s not so great at hiding his feelings, so I can usually ferret out the truth. (The trick, though is actually GETTING him to read my writing! It’s like pulling teeth!)
The most helpful people for feedback have been my critique group members and my sister (who I also write with–check out my posts about writing with a co-author). But if you don’t have a critique/writing group–what do you do? Before I had one, I asked people who were close to me for help–my husband, my mom, my mother-in-law–and I did have luck getting useful feedback from them. But doing so can be a little tricky.
How do you get honest feedback from a family member?
Ask specific questions — Handing someone a manuscript and just saying “tell me what you think” can seem overwhelming. What exactly do you want help with? Are you worried that they won’t like your main character? Are you worried that something you wrote will hit too close to home? Just ask!
Make your expectations clear — You want to know if they don’t like something so that you can change it, so make sure they know that. Non-writers don’t always realize just how many revisions go into writing a story, so telling you to change something can make them feel guilty. Let them know that you expect to make several more revisions and need to know what you should change next time. It’s better to hear the problems with your story before you hear it from an agent/editor who doesn’t want to help you fix it.
Don’t take anything they say personally — This is very important. It’s natural to want your family member to just say, “It was awesome! Great job! Nothing to fix!” But in the end this doesn’t help you grow as a writer. And if you get angry about what someone said, no one’s going to want to help you with your writing in the future.
Maybe if Dan and Vanessa had followed these rules, they wouldn’t have gotten into a big fight about it. :)
Have you ever gotten feedback from a family member? How did it go?