How to be a writer: how much feedback?

Photo credit: gigijin (Flickr).

Photo credit: gigijin (Flickr).

Who should you ask for feedback on your story or novel? Some of them should be fellow writers, so you can be sure they’ll take a critical eye. Some of them should be your target audience, so you can be sure you’ve written your genre well. Ideally, one or two should have a career in English, so they can catch all of your mistakes (and you will make mistakes).

But how many people should you ask for feedback? It should be at least a few, so you can get multiple opinions. If you can find a lot of people who want to read your work, great. David Brin, for example, has about 50 beta readers who he sends all his novels to. But there is one piece of advice that I would strongly recommend.

Don’t send your writing for feedback to everyone who’s interested.

That seems a little counterintuitive. Why wouldn’t you want as much feedback as you can get? It’s simple: you might write something else.

Basic courtesy says you should only send people one thing to review at a time, especially if it’s a novel. If you send your novel to everyone in your social circle who has the time and interest to read it, and then you write a short story in the meantime, you won’t have anyone else to send it to. I learned that the hard way.

So don’t go overboard while looking for feedback, and in the meantime, keep writing.

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About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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One Response to How to be a writer: how much feedback?

  1. scottbpruden says:

    50 beta readers? Dear god … I can’t imagine processing the thoughts of 50 individuals. I agree that others should take a look at the book to provide feedback, but I have only five or six readers (one being my wife) who I trust implicitly to give me thoughts on character and story development, the general story arc and plot continuity. Even the tiny bit of workshopping or group critiquing I’ve done drives me nuts – not because I don’t want to hear what people have to say but because it makes me second-guess myself. Your advice on holding back is excellent – cherry pick those who are short on time to do short stories and tap those willing to invest a bit more of their lives for the novels.

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