Feedback: Where Writers Can Find It

Whether you are new to the writing game or have been doing this for sometime, finding valuable feedback on your work is a necessity. The most common question I hear from writers is where to find it.

Let’s take a quick look at the types of feedback available to you first.

Critique Partners or Alpha Readers–These are your first readers. If you have a trusted person you share early work with, that’s fantastic. This person is best used to help you determine if your story idea is working, if your characters are believable, your settings on the page, etc… These readers are trusted and sacred because they are probably seeing a version of your story not quite fit for public consumption. Not everyone is lucky enough to have these readers, so if you do, treasure them! One note about CPs and alphas: If you are sending them work as you go, beware that they might not catch some structural problems as they develop. You’ll need someone to read the entire work, front to back, too, to ensure the story whole is working. This could be your CP/alpha, or you could save that for your beta readers (see below).

Beta Readers–After you’ve made a first or second (or more!) round of revisions on your own, you may want a beta reader. A beta reader should be close to your ideal reader and read a version that’s pretty close to what you think might be “done.” You want them to read it like a real book and provide feedback so you can level up your oh-so-close manuscript to polished perfection. I recommend writers ask specific questions about their manuscript to beta readers to make the most of their experience. Some possible questions to ask betas include:

  • When did you stop reading? (You want to know when the reader put the book down to understand where the pace or story trajectory waned)
  • What confused you? (If a reader has to stop reading to go back and confirm something or look something up or wonder if that’s possible, you want to know. You want to keep your readers immersed in your story world at all times, not wondering if that ferry really runs at that time of day).
  • Where did you question the protagonist’s motives/goals/believability?
  • What did you like best about the story? What did you like least? (This is great information to have as you revise–I received feedback that my betas liked a certain character the least because he was just horrible. When I read their specific comments, I knew I’d done my job with him because he irritated the reader so much. Do parse out those dislikes though–disliking a character who is supposed to be awful is one thing, disliking a subplot because it isn’t serving the main story is another).
  • Did the climax feel inevitable? (All your protagonist’s actions should be building up to an exciting climax that should feel inevitable to your reader–there shouldn’t be an escape hatch for them at that point).
  • Were the stakes clear and high enough?

Developmental Edits–A developmental edit will read through your manuscript and provide you with top level structural feedback on what is and isn’t working in your story. These edits ensure you are building a strong story from the inside out.

Proofreading/Copyediting–These are more line-by-line, grammatical fixes that are instrumental if you’re self-publishing. They are integral to the process, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to stick to more high level feedback providers.

So, Monica, I can hear you saying, that’s all great, but where do I find these people!

Feedback actually is all around.

While some feedback may cost money, it doesn’t have to. If you build up your writing community, you can easily find a network of other writers or supporters who will happily provide (or swap) feedback to you for nothing more than the promise of a future acknowledgement in your book. (And maybe a cup of coffee.)

Some specific places to find community and writing support are:

  • Professional organizations—whether it’s a group based on genre like the WFWA, the RWA, the SCBWI, or your local or state writer’s networks, there are tons of professional organizations you can join that provide connections, mentorships, critique groups and more. Join the group that meets your needs (and budget) and get involved. I’ve been a member of WFWA for years and have benefited from feedback from the group and always see writers helping each other, swapping pages or queries.
  • Hashtags—seriously. That may even be how you found me! There are great hashtags to follow to connect to other writers. Mix and mingle in these social spaces, interact, make online friends, you never know when you will be able to help each other. Try #writingcommunity and #amwriting to start, but research hashtags pertinent to your genre or topic, too.
  • Professional services—whether it’s a beta reading service (I’ve used The Spun Yarn), a developmental editor, or a book coach, there are a lot of services that you can add to your toolbox for feedback. Professional services is where you start investing money in your project, so make sure you have a clear idea of what you want from the experience. I always offer a free discovery call to discuss where you are with your project and what you are hoping to achieve so we can determine 1) what kind of feedback you need right now and 2) whether I’m a good fit for providing it. Most professionals will offer something similar, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of these offers to find the person who feels like the best fit for your communication style, manuscript, and stage of the process.
  • Take a class—I met so many great folks and learned so much about helpful (and frankly unhelpful) critique at a Margaret Mitchell House writing class I took in Atlanta years ago (unfortunately, the same class doesn’t exist anymore). Your local library, bookstore, or coffee shop may offer classes, meet-ups, or even author office hours to ask your writerly questions to an established writer.  
  • Talk to your friends—Honestly, once you say out loud that you are a writer to a few folks, you’ll be amazed at how many others are out there! I met a friend of a friend at a local volunteer event last night and she asked what I do. After explaining I am a writer and book coach, she said her husband was a writer, too–new connection made! Once you make a few writing connections, start a writing group, offer accountability to each other, or swap pages. 

It can be scary to meet new people, especially if calling yourself a writer is new to you, and scarier still to ask for feedback. Remember that rejection is all part of the business. Whether it’s creating community, querying agents, or having your book on submission, the potential for rejection permeates. Start now! Better to risk a little rejection early in your process and receive the added benefit of making your manuscript stronger than go it alone and not see your own weaknesses until it’s too late.

Where else do you find feedback? Let me know in the comments so we can all learn from each other!

Did you know, I also do manuscript evaluations akin to a developmental edit? It’s one of my favorite things to do, actually! I have been a professional beta reader in the past, which was fun but what I love even more is digging deep into a project to suss out the areas where a writer is shining and where they may need to spend a little extra attention. With my manuscript evaluations you will receive:

  • A full read through of your manuscript by me
  • A 5 page editorial letter with feedback focused on big picture structural issues
  • Suggested next steps for revision
  • A 1-hour coaching call to discuss your project, answer questions, and brainstorm

Wherever you find feedback, be brave and ask for it! Not only will your manuscript be stronger, but so will your writing community. Whether we formally work together or not, I would love to be part of your writing community. You can always connect with me here in the comments, via my newsletter, or set up a free discovery call and let’s chat about your project.

Published by Monica Cox

Monica is a writer and book coach who helps writers get unstuck so they can reach their writing goals.

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