Okay so I know that this has been covered several times before and there is some very good advice on this thread here.
I wanted to give a bit of my personal take and experience about feedback and critique. I have been doing some form of creative work most of my life. From Band to Track to Art to Webcomics to Books, I’ve had my fair share of receiving and giving feedback and critique.
So lets start with the giving side of the house.
The way I approach a person I have no rapport (no previous association) with:
I NEVER GIVE UNSOLICITED ADVICE ON A FIRST CONTACT, EVER!
- I find a story/artwork/comic page that I overall like.
- My first comments/feedback are usually about how much I like the work, things I find done well, and in general sincere praise.
- If the creator returns a comment I will continue to build rapport by continuing with things I like. (If they don’t I stay at the second bullet)
- Once I feel rapport has been achieved, I will then approach the creator in a non-critical way by saying something like, “I really like your work. There are a few suggestions I have about x,y,z if you’re interested in hearing them.”
- Only if the creator says yes will I offer my advice. It is CRITICAL that a person doing critiques not only tell them what they feel needs to improve, but give them suggestions on how to go about doing so. Give tips, tutorial links, examples. There is nothing worse than someone saying “That stinks” without ever giving a why and a how to fix it.
- I always state that these are my opinions and they are welcome to take or leave them at their discretion (this creator owes me nothing… that’s right… they don’t have to take a lick of my advice. It will not hurt my feelings.)
- The “Praise sandwich,” as corny as it sounds, WORKS. It will be a very rare occasion where the creator will take such an effort poorly.*
Exceptions to this rule are (for me) someone requesting critique of their work, whether in a forum or a author’s note and someone with which I already have a long standing rapport with, and whom expects me not to sugar-coat my thoughts
I will still be sure to praise sandwich my stuff, give some good with the Needs Improvement, because no one wants to hear nothing but bad about their babies.
I try never to come from a “better than thou” angle. Yes I know some things, but I am aware that I don’t know everything, that I am still picking up things from on line sources, fellow writers, and books as I go. When I phrase my advice its “I’ve been doing this…” if it’s something from online, I’ll say, “I’m including this resource that might help…” or “one way I learned to do this is…”
I don’t want to make another creator feel small. It’s been done to me, and it doesn’t feel good.
So Let’s talk about the other side of the coin, RECEIVING FEEDBACK and CRITIQUE
Let’s face it, even the most expected, well-intentioned critique can SUCK. These are my BABIES!! How dare someone tell me that it’s not perfect (/sarcasm because I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.) A crit can make me anxious, upset. It can make me cry. It can make me feel like I’m a lousy creator and I should stop what I’m doing.
So my biggest piece of advice: Feedback and Critique is the person’s OPINION! Remember that.
Of course, take any solid grammatical, punctuation, or flow suggestions for action. But if a critique tells me to get rid of a character, change the genre of fiction I’m writing, or some other such negative inflammatory nonsense, I DON’T have to take it aboard.
Next piece of advice: Don’t respond or react to the initial reading.
Even my best of friends, who I ASK to give me feedback and Crit, sometimes say things I don’t want to hear. They upset me. And the emotional thing to do would be to respond with a reaction rather than a well thought out, perspective-seeing mind.
So, what I do? I read it (usually multiple times) and then I close out that email/line edit/discord chat. I ruminate on what is being said and even the intent behind it. Once I get past my emotional response to what they’ve said I can better see the VALUE of the advice I’ve been given.
Even advice you feel is a dumpster fire CAN contain a kernel of something you can use to improve. It may highlight a blind spot in your research, it may bring up a question you hadn’t thought of before. If you only wait until your emotions can be set aside.
THANK Your Commenter!!
Good Gracious PLEASE thank the person who took the time out of their day to share some things they’re struggling with regarding a creation!
For those who are well-intentioned, this will keep them coming back and reading.
For the trolls in life, it will deprive them of a emotional reaction they desire to hear as result of their harsh words (then ban them ).
Such is my experience. I feel like I had more to say?
I hope you find a kernel of something you can use in the essay…lol! See you all around the forums.