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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » reasons for giving feedback here on the Hatrack River Writers Workshop

Author Topic: reasons for giving feedback here on the Hatrack River Writers Workshop
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Member # 59

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Probably the main reason people give feedback here is in hopes of receiving feedback in return.

That's a good reason, but I have one I like much better (and it's every bit as self-serving):

In a workshop situation, it truly is better to give than to receive.

When you give feedback on someone else's story, you have to think about what they are trying to do and how well they are doing what they are trying to do, and then you have to think about how they might be able to do what they are trying to do better.

Every one of those steps will help you become a better writer of your own work.

Feedback you receive on something you post may only help you with that specific piece of writing, but feedback you give on someone else's work can help all of your writing.

So, why do you give feedback and how has giving feedback here on the forum helped you?

We'd like some testimonials here, people. [Smile]

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Member # 9682

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In a workshop situation, it truly is better to give than to receive.

When you give feedback on someone else's story, you have to think about what they are trying to do and how well they are doing what they are trying to do, and then you have to think about how they might be able to do what they are trying to do better.

This is ideal, but (and I say this truly regretfully), not realistic. This is why other workshopping websites have some type of point system for submitting one's work. Otherwise, people *will* submit their writing, but often times will *not* take the time to read other people's writing if they can get away with it.

So, why do you give feedback
For me, I consider it opportunistic and rude to post fragments and not reply to fragments.

how has giving feedback here on the forum helped you?
Giving feedback to fragments honestly hasn't been so helpful to my writing. But I've read quite a few full stories here by members, and critiquing that is helpful when I sit down to write my own fiction.
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Member # 8368

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It is, strangely enough, easier to spot a flaw in sombody else's work. Hard to believe, I know.

I can't count the number of times I've critiqued something and then, in a quiet moment, realized I had the exact same problem with something I'd written. Sometimes you need someone to critique your work and bonk you over the head with your error. Sometimes, it works even better if you discover it for yourself.

I don't often get that from the first 13 fragment, which is why I don't participate much on those threads. But I've exchanged critiques with several people here over the years and that has definitely been extremely beneficial--hopefully to both of us.

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Pyre Dynasty
Member # 1947

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When I read slush for a tiny college magazine I learned so much. After seeing the same mistakes repeated I became sensitive to them and I'm sure a professional slusher can smell them from the envelope. (One thing I learned is that people who use fancy fonts are the worst to work with.)

This is why I think it is important for us to share our work and and to read the work of our peers and even those we deem not our peers one way or the other.

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When I first signed on here, like..umm five years ago, I received my first non friends and family feedback, and I remember being crushed, because someone said, "Honestly, I wouldn't read on." Crushed. Crushed. Like I still remember her name, and I used to argue with things she said on the basis of her being wrong about everything because she said, "Honestly, I wouldn't read on."

Then I went through a phase where I realized how helpful honest comments and feedback were, and then I was super honest and feedbacky, and basically sucked the joy from as many people as possible.

While I did that, I treated my own work with the same harsh "honest" treatment, and I like to think that I learned a lot in that time, but I didn't really, because I mostly just looked at a white screen and was scared to write anything because my inner editor had teeth. Biggins.

And then one day I learned what JK Rowling knows, and that I only needed to write to amuse myself, and that as I do so, and work hard to put a cleaned up version of what makes me happy out into the world, I've found other people who think like me and who are amused by the same things that amuse me.

So sometimes ultimately the thing I learn from making feedback, is that everyone is on their own path, and have their own market, and sometimes I don't like something because the writer is new or scared or too full of themselves, but sometimes I don't like something because it is simply not my market.

My method for feedback has changed. I've learned what I am good at, (primarily characterization and story structure) and what I suck at (primarily overusing adverbs, and an inability to speak human) so I try to make feedback in what I add value to, namely when a character is acting weird or a story is starting too quickly, or taking too long, and avoid mentioning any wording critiques, because I can't promise my way would be any better. Sometimes I make feed back on what worked for me to connect to someone in my tribe, and what didn't work for me, in effort to help if helpful. And sometimes I just say stuff because I like to hear myself talk.

But I've learned a heaping ton from feedback from others. I've learned what to listen to, and I've learned to trust people.
And most importantly I've met people inside my market who I've learned to trust and who have helped me find ways to make my stories way better than I could make them on my own.

I'm not quite to good yet, but hey, I'm on my own path.

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I post feedback because the process enhances my editor skills for my own writing, for my professional work, and for--huh--personal growth. I reference my research resources when I encounter speed bumps in others' writing, grammar, style. rhetoric, language usage, prose examples, etc. My writing skills grow as a direct consequence, my editing skills directly also, though secondary in relationship to editing others' writing.

Others' writing may or may not benefit from guidance, mostly because any given writer is ultimately responsible for how she or he writes. A writer chooses to consider guidance or not. An editor is only a guide who suggests edits, not a dictator like grammar school teachers. Though grammar teachers simplify grammar education by use of prescriptive practices, many of the principals are fundamentals that are unlearned in grammar school and later in life.

Average English grammar, writing, and reading skills are at seventh grade level, so that comparable comprehension ease suits the general audience. The U.S. government sets that standard for writing generally; fourth grade level, though, for warnings and cautionary information, like product hazards, instruction, assembly, and use manuals. The mark is often missed.

However, prose requires an appreciation for seventh grade level grammar, yet a poetic sophistication that transcends the superficial level. Catch-22, double bind, paradox: unsophisticated sophistication.

Enhanced grammar skills inform prose craft, provide alternatives that may clarify and strengthen weak prose. Also, versatility acknowledges exceptions to prescriptive grammar "rules" rely upon rhetoric principles, foremost whether a grammar vice is a rhetorical virtue or vice. This is style: artful use of grammar principles and rhetoric principles to construct a persuasive narrative.

I learned these and more from responses to fragments. This is why I comment. If a writer also benefits, all for the good. If not, c'est la vie: such is life.

My professional writing growth leapt ahead of where I was when I didn't workshop, didn't edit. I learned many craft and rhetoric principles over the years of workshopping.

Personal growth--there's the squeaky widget. The social functions of writing generally explore personal meaning. What I've learned about myself--lots, to say the least. On a less personal front, what I learned about writing's social functions profoundly influences me, more importantly, how writing's social functions influence appeal is sublime and profound. These I learned from fragment commentary and formal and independent study elsewhere.

Wow. Yes, writing is a folk ritual, a social bonding process. Humans are social beings, yes, though perhaps more contentiously contrary than an interesting, lively, productive, meaningful life warrants. Catch-22--competition is a life force, the life's blood of narrative arts and life. C'est la vie.

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