Recently, I was asked for an editorial overview of a book. The reason? Everyone who had read it said how amazingly good it was. This switched on a red light for the author who realised that her first book surely needed some improvement/amendment.
With a little reworking of certain sections, the book was, I believe, improved beyond measure. Those who said it was utterly amazing did the author no favours. The book was very good, but everything can be improved. Sometimes, a little goes a long way.
Many people are and remain, unpublished authors, so cannot afford or ever hope to receive editorial feedback. However, this does not mean they cannot or should not write.
This is where writing groups come into their own, for there is a tutor with experience of writing for publication, and other members of the group who are keen writers, but also keen readers of their colleagues’ work.
Joining a writers’ group is the best way for new writers to get feedback on their work. Online groups work for some, but face to face is much better for many.
Yet, most of us hate receiving criticism of our work. So how do writing groups work?
The support you will get from a writers’ groups is mutual – as well as getting feedback on your own work, you will have to give feedback to others. The aim is to learn from the tutor, to try writing exercises, and to give constructive criticism.
Constructive criticism is essential to the development of any writer. To criticise constructively, you need to be able to:
- Identify something in the text that doesn’t work for you.
- Then to say why it doesn’t work.
- A writer also needs to be told if there is something in their writing that particularly impresses you.
- Again, you need to be able to identify what is good about it.
- You may be able to suggest ways of improving the piece.
- The worst service you can ever do to a fellow writer is just to say that you like something they’ve written without going on to say why. Don’t damn with faint praise.
Of course, some will go on to write at a level needed for publication…that’s another plus.