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Writing Tip: Feedback

Renee Stevens


Here at the blog we've talked about leaving feedback for Authors. With that in mind, I asked Hosted Author: C James if he would be willing to write something up for the blog to tell everyone why he thinks feedback is important. I hope you enjoy what he had to say and keep it in mind the next time you read a story here at GA!

Feedback: Why Authors Need You


Authors differ, but most need feedback. I mean ‘need’ quite literally.


It’s not an ego thing, it is a need. The reasons vary from author to author, but in general, it lets us know how we’re doing, and how the story is coming across. We cannot see the story as you do when it’s in progress. The art of writing is in conveying the story, so without feedback, we don’t know if there are problems such as what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t.


So, what is feedback? Feedback is your opinion. Feedback can, and sometimes does, include mixed and even negative opinions. It can take the form of a forum post, a review, a PM, or an e-mail. Is clicking on ‘like’ feedback? Not really, for it does not impart a reason. Some authors may prefer criticism be sent privately, others (me, for one) are fine with it being public; check with an author if in doubt.


dkstories often said, “Feedback is an author’s lifeblood.” No truer words have ever been said.


Over the last few years, feedback has diminished on this site and others. As this site’s author advocate, I’ve heard many times from authors lamenting this fact, and how it erodes their motivation to keep going. Some longtime authors are no longer with us for this very reason. Many more have given up after barely getting started.


Some have told me that, “No news is good news” or “Authors write to be read, all that counts is readership.” They are mistaken, at least in regards to most authors.


When I began posting here at GA, I did so in order to learn how to write. I have learned more from feedback than through any other means. Feedback is my primary motive for publicly posting; if it goes away, so does my motive to post. I’m not alone in this; other authors on this site have contacted me about this issue.


Writing is a compulsion. Sharing the results of writing, however, is a choice. It requires work, and work requires a motivation or it does not get done.


So get involved. If you’re reading a story, find some other way to let them know what you think about their plot, or characters, or writing in general. All you have to do is click on the chapter review link at the end of each chapter!


Another method, if you’re a GA member (And if not, why not? It’s free and easy!) is to give the author’s forum or story topic a try as well. The forum (or topic) is not limited the way reviews are; a discussion can happen in a forum, that can’t in reviews, including other readers as well as the author. Also, the forums can be downright fun.


So if you read here on GA, give it a try. Recognize the author's effort and share your thoughts. Please.

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Totally how I feel. But then there's the other side of the fence where I feel guilty when I get behind in my writing and can't post regularly due to schedule conflicts :|

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This is a thoughtful piece, and thanks for it. An author posted a few weeks back that if they didn't start getting feedback, they were going to stop posting. It may have been you, CJ. I can't remember.


It's funny, though. People put things up in Sneak Peeks and blow away the commentators when they don't like honest critique. I never leave a story review now because of the quality of others. Publishers have slush piles, and unfortunately we have gush piles. Some reviewers exist in some nirvanic state where everything is faaaabaluss dahling. I have no wish to ass ociate myself with that, or condone it by association.


Instead, I put my reviews in my own blog. They're not always fulsome in praise, but some of those authors actually come to me by PM and thank me. One in particular told me of another reviewer from a while ago who he misses because they used to be even more blunt than me, apparently. I must admit to having been quite insulted by that :P (actually, irony alert might be needed there).


I am very interested in the note that comments are waning on this site and others, though. I don't know if it's technically possible, but I'd suggest that an anonymous site survey should be carried out to ask folks why they don't leave reviews so much now.


Personally, I have to say that, as a reviewer, and I hope a thoughtful one, I have found the site to be a little anti-commentary of late. There have been several blog posts stating that comments should be done this way that way the other way but not the way they are being done and not the alternative way some people might come up with.


I can see the point of that. Site admin says it is trying to protect new writers and not have them being discouraged. Well, why not just tell us all that these writers are fluffy pink kittens in the first flush of motherhood, baking apple pies?! It's almost impossible to argue against that, so those of us who might work to the contrary view are immediately disarmed. We cannot comment, and the site, therefore, gets the sort of reviews one person in particular leaves. I was utterly amazed when I signed up a few months ago to see that reviewer being lauded as one of the top reviewers. That reviewer might as well just ask for a set of rose, sunflower, and fireworks emoticons to be created for them, because that's the sum total of their commentary.


I am, however, just unutterably amazed to hear that authors have left because they are not getting feedback. I see the point. But when the feedersback get a kicking from site admin at most every turn, one has to start asking questions. There's a logical inconsistency here, people. It doesn't add up.


As to some 'other' reasons for lack of feedback: well, I wonder if there is not just too much stuff out there here. And perhaps there is insufficient quality control (difficult to do, I'll admit). Also, does the e-reader have an effect? Are people reading on the train, and not bothering to log back on to leave the comments? That physical separation might be important. Perhaps there needs to be an ereader download option that requires an upload before another download can be done. (Forced Feedback :) )


Personally, I'd suggest that there should be another tier of authors. Something like Contributing Authors, who would be expected to produce good quality work in terms of technical ability. That should be a category for all plain (i.e. not Proms or Hosteds) authors to aim to achieve. That way the site would get a better standard of writing. Such authors also would not be allowed to start posting a story until it was complete, to avoid this ridiculous situation of incomplete stuff. Whoever heard of Random House publishing half a book? They would be held to higher standards technically. Their work would only be available to members. Members would only be allowed to read one or two at a time and not start another till they had reviewed.


Or perhaps more writers could be made Proms and a new category of member called Reader could be initiated. You'd have to provide at least one useful review per story, or month, or season or whatever, which could be voted by a 'useful' button by the author. That way those interested in quality from a reader and writer perspective would give each other what they needed.


These are but suggestions! But one thing's for sure, if writers are leaving due to a lack of feedback, something needs to be done. No writers = no readers = no audience = no advertiser = no revenue = no site. And that would be pointless. Obviously. Or perhaps it's not obvious enough to some people.

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I want a review box at the bottom of every chapter, like efiction had. I'd be a lot more inclined to just drop words in a box about the chapter I've read if I could do that. That review could pop up on the reviews page for the story.

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Why isn't feedback tied to reputation points? I have come across members who have posted a lot of feedback but have next to nil reputation points. I find that a little ironic.

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CJ has made a lot of great points, but here's one he missed. Getting feedback also allows you to see what portion of the audience you're appealing to. Is it the younger crowd, the older readers, those in the middle or is it a mixture? Knowing your audience can help you either gear more toward that group or possibly lead you to find way to attract some of the other groups as well. You can't do that without feedback.

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I think it's pretty egotistical to say that you'll only write more if people comment. When authors say that, it pretty much turns me off and I stop reading whatever it was. Do you think that published authors get all this feedback? of course not! Give me a break. This hasn't changed much even with the advent of the e-book and internet sales. Real-life art/literary critics who write reviews generally get paid to do so! That's how they make their living Complaining that people don't review on this site isn't going to help, especially when people consistently say they only want positive feedback along the lines of "your story is awesome and so are you keep writing moar forever! *heart* *heart*" I don't review much because people on this site don't want real opinions. Makes me wonder if that's because way too much of our content here is poorly written. Just go back to the last blog post about reviewing and you'll see. A lot of people on that post said they don't leave comments for stories they don't like -- that's feedback, too. Maybe our authors just don't want to accept/believe it. But IMHO "praise in public, critique in private" is BS. If you're scared of a little constructive feedback (that will actually help you write better), then why do you have the title "author"? Real life isn't sunshine and roses. Just look at movie reviews and think about how the screenwriter or the director or producer feels when the critics trash their movie. It's like everybody here wants to play in a competitive sport and still have all competitors win. That's not how life works. Grow up.

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I don't think it's fair to denigrate authors who aren't looking for harsh comments. This is as it were a free reader site primarily (judging by the ratio of readers to writers), not a writer critiquing workshop. Looking for validation or encouragement is just as a worthy need as looking for the hard comments.


Personally, I don't care to bandy critical comments because I don't need the aggravation of roughing up the wrong writer. Various writers are at various stages of growth. Some are new at the writing thing. Some just need encouragement. Others have gone beyond needing validation to looking for the hard-hitting comments. The real writer will tire of gushy comments after a certain while and seek after the more critical reviews. I don't care to force my critical views on those who might not want it.


That said. An author might get more feedback, if they left leading questions at the end of the story. Don't leave the generic 'please comment' plea. Ask more thoughtful questions about story and characters for example. And if you're the author in need of harsh comments, you should say so at the end. Giving a passive agressive "I won't update if I don't get reviews" is just silly and selfish. You want comments, be proactive about getting reviews (short of spamming of course), better yet, write awesome stories.

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149 views 5 comments ... sad.png

Are you complaining about lack of 'feedback' on this blog and the comments? Now you know how some of the authors feel gikkle.gif


Ironic tongue.png

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Are you complaining about lack of 'feedback' on this blog and the comments? Now you know how some of the authors feel gikkle.gif


Ironic tongue.png


I wasn't complaining, just pointing out ... in an ironic manner! And, um, I'm usually criticised FOR commenting, not for keeping shtum!

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So, what is feedback? Feedback is your opinion. Feedback can, and sometimes does, include mixed and even negative opinions. It can take the form of a forum post, a review, a PM, or an e-mail. Is clicking on ‘like’ feedback? Not really, for it does not impart a reason.


well heres some feedback;


get your definition of feedback correct to start with! ;)



clicking 'like' IS feedback

clicking 'follow' IS feedback

rating a story IS feedback

even continuing to read a multi-chapter story IS feedback



if a reader then chooses to expand on any of the above by writing a review etc, then that is their choice, in exactly the same way that an author has a choice as to whether they continue to write



also, feedback is not just an opinion, it can be factual, eg spelling, factual/logical errors etc



as for written feedback on a completed story, is there any point?

if its about correcting something, then it at least has some use. if its just to say 'great story', then the rating system & 'like' achieves precisely that & in a measurable way.




if an author chooses to ignore these valid forms of feedback, well thats their choice, but they cant then moan about the lack of feedback


if the system isnt making authors explicitly aware of these feedback measurements, then that should be fixed

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As someone who has just started writing I find the feedback invaluable. Especially, since I am usually way ahead in writing vs. where I am posting. If something isn't working for people then I can go back and 'fix' chapters that haven't yet posted.


I don't like when any writer says they will stop writing if they don't get enough 'feedback'. That might work if you are writing for a living since feedback would equal revenue. But I'm writing because I've come to enjoy it. Hearing from people who enjoy what I am producing is just icing on the cake.


I understand the readers who don't think about comments. I've been one of those for many years. It wasn't until I started writing that I started considering leaving feedback to let other writers know how much I enjoy their work.


It's really important to encourage those writers you enjoy. There's so much 'junk' out there, letting those writers who produce the 'gold' know you like their work will keep them producing more...

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I was trying to cover all bases with this. Not all authors are the same. When it comes to negative and constructive criticism feedback, some authors do welcome it. I am one who most certainly does. However, I certainly can't speak for everyone.


Oh, and to Dark: a published author gets money. That's a whole different ballgame than posting stuff for free. It's a simple case of there needing to be some motive. Money is a motive. Feedback is a motive.

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