What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

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writersink
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What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by writersink » November 7th, 2012, 3:56 pm

I talked about getting negative feedback in a recent post on my blog, and it got me thinking... what's the BEST feedback you've ever gotten? That piece of feedback which still makes you giddy when you think about it? What's the worst?

I'll start. The best is when someone told me my book made them cry. In a happy way. As in they were laughing so much they cried. Every time I'm feeling low as a writer, I'll think to myself I made someone cry once, I can do it again!

The worst? There's quite a few, but someone once told me my plot was confusing and that I should give up and start a new book because this one would get nowhere. Ouch. But for some reason, I want to print that off and stick it to my wall as I edit the very same book.

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Re: What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by dios4vida » November 7th, 2012, 4:30 pm

Awesome topic. :)

Best feedback: actually came from a fellow Bransforumer and a member of my critique circle. She was almost 1/4 of the way through of my WIP and I explained a certain element to her and she said "Oh Man! That is so cool. Your story just keeps getting better and better! I told my 14-year-old son about it and he wishes he could go to the bookstore and buy a copy. Someday! I know it will happen." (Yes, that's a direct quote because it made me so happy I refuse to delete that message.)

Worst feedback: I have a few, none of which are direct quotes. ;) I think it would be when I had a friend read the first chapter of my first book (completely stupid idea!) and asked what he thought. He looked at me, glanced down at the laptop where he'd read it, and changed the subject. It was so horrible he refused to answer my question and never mentioned writing again. In his defense, it really was wretched writing, but still.
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Re: What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by wilderness » November 7th, 2012, 6:48 pm

The worst feedback I've gotten is no feedback at all. I don't understand why friends and family practically beg me to read my novel and then behave as follows. No word for 2 months. I'm agonizing that they read it, hated it, and now they are avoiding me. I finally ask them up front what they thought and they respond that they've been really busy and they haven't gotten to it. Aughhh! If you're not going to give me feedback, why am I letting you read my book for free when I hope to sell it some day???

Best feedback: I'm basically happy whenever anyone loves my book. My critique group is really enthusiastic, so that's been great. I also love getting positive feedback from agents or other industry professionals (which you can get via contests etc). However, the most USEFUL feedback has actually come from my husband. He's not a writer, but is a movie buff and loves to analyze the structure of a story. He gave me so much meaningful advice and I ended up rewriting my ending because of him--and it turned out so much better as a result! He's not the most tactful so I generally mope for an hour or so after he criticizes me but his insights are too valuable to give up.

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Re: What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by Hillsy » November 7th, 2012, 7:18 pm

Worst feedback.....err...guess that was when I was first starting and a friend of my - probably the only friend I have who reads voraciously AND reads fantasy/Sci-Fi....she'd had the first 30 pages for a while and when I brought it up in conversaion she said "Yeah - couldn't get past page 3. It was so sloooow". Looking at it she was, of course, right (I'd been reading the Wheel of TIme for the first time so those first 3 pages were largely descriptions about breezes, houses and village fetes), but it was still a pretty clear thumbs down.

Best feedback......Taking nothing away from my writing group, who've said some wonderfully positive things, I mean like grinning half hour later positive, but I guess the best feedback I've got is from Nathan himself. I mean I've got self-confidence issues, I'm sure I'm not unique in that, but mine tend to center specifically about the quality of my writing. I work largely on the principle that, if I write well, when I do find the right story I've the tools to pull it off - if the reverse was true I'd be utterly gutted. But I won a comp a while back (thanks everyone for voting for me!) and Nathan critiqued a 30 page sample of mine. Well, though he kinda took the structure and plot apart (and I can't fault him on it, he's totally right. Unsurprisingly), he put a foot note at the end of chapter 1, Nathan Bransford, literary agent, that said

...."Your writing is really good"

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Re: What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by Sommer Leigh » November 8th, 2012, 9:46 am

I once had the opportunity to have a brief email conversation with a YA author I really looked up to when I was first working through the zombie book. She said to me and I can't remember the exact quote, but it basically went when people say they really loved what you wrote or when they say they really hated it, and this applies to critiques by beta readers and by reviewers, ignore them both because they are both wrong. Basically neither can really help you get better. I don't know why but that always stuck with me.

The best feedback I've ever gotten is the kind that gave me something to work with afterwards. Not a specific thing anyone has said. I think Claudie stands out in my mind because she gave me all this great stuff about what was wrong or right so that I could make the wrong stuff like the right stuff. The best feedback was thorough, uncompromising, honest, and kind of stayed away from the high praise. I think high praise defeats us a little bit because it gives a false sense of security and authors tend to cling to the high praise and forgo the other stuff which is way more useful.

The worst kind of feedback is the "It was good. I liked it." Those phrases turn me into a tentacle monster of rage. They don't mean anything. They don't even specifically point out what was good and what they liked.

Although I do remember one critique partner in an old writing group I was in didn't add any critical feedback to the chapters I gave him but he did write at the very bottom of the last page, "You wasted my time." That kind of sucked. Not a lot because things like that don't really bother me, but I think that's probably the meanest anyone has ever been.
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Re: What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by wilderness » November 8th, 2012, 12:30 pm

Sommer Leigh wrote: "You wasted my time."
Dude, that is mean! Who would write that? In a critique group???

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Re: What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by Sommer Leigh » November 8th, 2012, 1:16 pm

wilderness wrote:
Sommer Leigh wrote: "You wasted my time."
Dude, that is mean! Who would write that? In a critique group???
I didn't take it with much weight. The group disolved shortly after and that particular person had a reputation for not liking anyone's work and often took the time to "rewrite" other's work how he would do it, always with the caveat "This is how you are suppose to write." He wasn't my favorite person in the world and largly was responsible for the bad blood created during the break-up. He was also in perpetual writer's block and really exemplified the idea that not all feedback is good feedback.
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Re: What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by Sanderling » November 9th, 2012, 12:54 am

Sommer Leigh wrote:The best feedback I've ever gotten is the kind that gave me something to work with afterwards. Not a specific thing anyone has said. I think Claudie stands out in my mind because she gave me all this great stuff about what was wrong or right so that I could make the wrong stuff like the right stuff. The best feedback was thorough, uncompromising, honest, and kind of stayed away from the high praise. I think high praise defeats us a little bit because it gives a false sense of security and authors tend to cling to the high praise and forgo the other stuff which is way more useful.

The worst kind of feedback is the "It was good. I liked it." Those phrases turn me into a tentacle monster of rage. They don't mean anything. They don't even specifically point out what was good and what they liked.
I'll echo this, especially the latter thought. I'm really happy the reader liked it, so much better than them hating it, but... totally unhelpful for trying to root out the weaknesses of the story and make them stronger.

My favourite critiquers do the first thing. Start off with praise/assessment of all the good stuff and highlighting what really worked, and then add explanation/examples about what the reader found weak/confusing/purposeless. Provides something to give you the warm fuzzies, but also offers constructive feedback that can be considered and used. I actually find if I get critical feedback without that prefacing praise I'm less likely to take the critical comments seriously. I guess because I'm inclined to brush the criticism off as just that they didn't like/get the story.
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Re: What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by dios4vida » November 9th, 2012, 10:15 am

Uh, yeah...can't delete the duplicate for some reason...carry on. :oops:
Last edited by dios4vida on November 9th, 2012, 10:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Re: What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by dios4vida » November 9th, 2012, 10:21 am

Sommer Leigh wrote:She said to me and I can't remember the exact quote, but it basically went when people say they really loved what you wrote or when they say they really hated it, and this applies to critiques by beta readers and by reviewers, ignore them both because they are both wrong. Basically neither can really help you get better. I don't know why but that always stuck with me.
I agree with this - but I also think it merits mentioning that if a beta reader or critiquer does give you meaningful feedback, and then gives a glowing compliment like the one I mentioned is my best feedback, then you shouldn't completely discount it. If all Sheila has told me is that she loves the book, then yeah, I probably wouldn't have listened to it much. But the very fact that she's given me some incredible critiques, and hasn't hesitated from a "you know, you really need to rework this scene, because you've drained out all the tension between these characters and it's a huge letdown", makes her compliment of my writing mean a lot to me. I think in cases like that, it's okay to listen to the "I really loved it", as long as you don't stop at that and let yourself get lazy in your craft because you're wonderful or anything.

Also, though, the point about meaningful critiques giving the best feedback is totally true. I actually have another "best feedback" that was a much milder, calmer compliment (therefore it doesn't SQUEE in the mind when you first think of the question) but one that was likely more uplifting when it comes down to it. Another member of my critique circle is among the finest writers I've ever read. Seriously. He is also sparse on his praise. And a few weeks ago he pointed out a specific passage and said (paraphrased) "this is really well plotted out. #applause"
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Re: What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by CharleeVale » November 9th, 2012, 12:32 pm

I don't think I can pinpoint a single best 'feedback,' because the way I work with my CPs, feedback is a process and not a one-time thing. But I like it when it helps me.
Sanderling wrote: My favourite critiquers do the first thing. Start off with praise/assessment of all the good stuff and highlighting what really worked, and then add explanation/examples about what the reader found weak/confusing/purposeless. Provides something to give you the warm fuzzies, but also offers constructive feedback that can be considered and used. I actually find if I get critical feedback without that prefacing praise I'm less likely to take the critical comments seriously. I guess because I'm inclined to brush the criticism off as just that they didn't like/get the story.
I'll echo this. Because I try to work this way, and I also don't function well when NOTHING good is mentioned.

However, while I can't pinpoint a specific good 'feedback,' I can easily remember the greatest moments of praise. One in my recent memory was from an agent, who ultimately passed on my work (The market is glutted with the genre at the moment). But she said that my story was 'Compellingly rendered and thoroughly readable.'

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Re: What's the Best and Worst Feedback You've Ever Gotten?

Post by Shipple » November 19th, 2012, 8:05 am

Oddly, I'd say some of my best feedback had/has me re-writing for months (or possibly just weeks). It was a critique (or a few critiques, really) that had me delving back into my world with new energy thinking "I could do this here and that there!"

My worst feedback had me saying, "That is just a bad idea." That was from someone who wanted me to expand upon a minor part of my story that had nothing to do with the main plot. I know it would have just bogged down the book, so I thanked her and ignored the advice.
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