Have you ever sought out feedback on your writing? While asking for feedback can be scary, in my experience, it’s almost always helpful, especially if you get feedback from the right person. Getting feedback is one of the fastest ways to improve your writing.
It’s amazing how much we can’t see in our own writing. Many times when I receive feedback on my writing, I’m shocked to find out that the thing I was worried about wasn’t such a big deal at all, but there were other, more pressing matters that I needed to attend to to make my writing better.
In the writing community, there are several ways that you can seek out feedback on your writing, and often you can get feedback for free!
Here are a five ways to get feedback on your writing.
1. One-on-one consultations with writers or editors at conferences (often called Blue Pencil Cafés):
I attended my first Blue Pencil Café last year at the When Words Collide conference here in Calgary. In a Blue Pencil Café, an author or editor will review a few pages of your work and give you feedback on your writing and maybe even tips on the industry or suggestions on where you could submit it. At some conferences you may be asked to submit a few pages of writing before the conference date so the author or editor may prepare, while at others, you bring pages with you and the writer/editor reads them right as you sit there. If you have a chance to participate in a Blue Pencil Café, just do it! It’s scary the first time (and the second, and the third), but it’s a great way to get free advice on how to improve your writing.
On a side note, I’m going to be helping out writers at a Blue Pencil Café session at this year’s When Words Collide conference. If you’re going to be at the conference, drop by and say hi!
2. Writing Groups:
Meeting with other writers to discuss your work can not only be a great way to get feedback on your writing, but also a good way to keep up on the industry and commiserate about the writing life. All writing groups are different, but some groups share work with each other and request feedback. Almost always there’s no cost.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
3. Writing Classes:
I have written before about the pros and cons of joining a writing class, but love them or hate them, they are a way to get feedback on your writing. The usefulness of the feedback will depend on your teacher and your classmates. In some writing classes you’ll have the chance to learn about the writing craft and get feedback on your writing in a group setting.
Do your homework before you sign up for a class: find out exactly what you’ll be covering, and learn as much as you can about the person teaching the class. I’ve been lucky to have been taught by a wonderful teacher (Naomi K. Lewis), but I have heard the teacher can make or break a class (no pressure writing teachers ;).
4. Writer-in-Residence Programs:
Writer-in-Residence programs allow you to submit work to established authors who in turn provide a critique, for free!
I’ve taken advantage of two writer-in-residence programs so far, but I’ll be hitting them up again this year. The advantage of writer-in-residence programs is that you are often able to submit a generous number of pages (25 seems to be about average) and then meet with the author to get one-on-one feedback (and often a healthy dose of encouragement on the side).
Writer-in-residence programs seem to be popping up more and more, but if you’re looking for one in your area, start with your library, local university(ies) and writing association(s).
5. An Editor
I’d be remiss if I didn’t list getting feedback from a professional editor as a way to improve your writing. Of course I’m biased because I am a freelance editor, but hiring an editor can be a great way to get dedicated feedback on your writing. A few cautions though: hiring an editor can be costly, and it’s a good idea to find an editor that is experienced in your genre.
You can find professional editors here:
A Final Note:
Seeking out feedback on your writing can be scary (and occasionally painful), but it’s a great motivator, and a way to continue to improve your skills.
Finally, here’s a post from Wordplay, written by Ali Luke, that will help you prepare for getting feedback on your writing and make the most of the feedback: How to Get Feedback on Your Writing (and Sort the Good from the Bad).
Do you have any tips on how to get feedback on writing?