Should you seek feedback from others before you start writing?
The idea and basic plot for my first book were developed during a weekend writing workshop. The tutor loved the idea, and her parting words at the conclusion of that weekend workshop were, ‘Just write it.’ So I did. Although I received feedback and input later on in the writing process, this was the only feedback I had prior to writing.
For my second book (click here to read about the basic premise of this new book), I’m doing things a little differently. The publisher of my first book (Pear Jam Books) has facilitated the creation of a network of its authors interested in helping each other creatively. After discussing what we wanted this group to achieve, Project Bounceboard was born. Its mission: ‘to provide a safe, positive, supportive environment for those who want somewhere to bounce new or in-progress ideas for stories or have a bit of help brainstorming.’
We set up a few basic rules of engagement:
- This is a brainstorming group, NOT a critiquing group! If a member wishes to have more in-depth feedback on both strengths and weaknesses, then they will ask for it . Otherwise, positive comments and productive suggestions only, please.
- It is assumed that everyone will respect each other’s intellectual property and copyright and not steal any ideas. If someone comes up with an idea that you really really love, ask them if you can work on it with them!
- At this stage it is assumed that everyone wants to focus on projects that are more mainstream in theme and tone. If you wish to work on topics that are more alternative or niche (e.g. erotica, explicit horror) then please indicate possible offensive content at the top of each post as a courtesy to those who may not wish to read it.
- Have fun! No idea is a stupid or dumb idea. Some may just need a bit more development than others.
In an uncommon act of bravery (I’m quite insecure about my writing!) I decided to kick things off by posting the synopsis for my second book to our closed Facebook group for comments – I wanted to know the following things: did the book idea appeal? What did I need to consider? What would make it better? What age group and gender would it appeal to?
The group responded en masse. There were 58 comments on the thread.
The relevant question is… did it help?
The answer… YES!
Firstly the feedback from my group confirmed that my synopsis had appeal. Aside from direct comments made that the idea had appeal, I also think that the fact that the group posted such a variety of comments was indirect confirmation that the idea had struck a chord of interest within the group. The group felt the best audience for this story would be a young adult (YA) readership.
Secondly, because every person is different, with differing interests and strengths, the things the group asked me to consider were varied. Some were interested in the technical details, what would my characters eat and wear, how would they travel about, who would they meet, and so on. Others were interested in my characters – what growth and change would occur to them during the story. There was an interesting discussion on how to make the story appeal to both genders. There were some fantastic suggestions for the plot.
All in all, it was an incredibly useful exercise that solidified my thinking in a number of areas. I made some decisions. Just a few examples are: I am writing the story for a YA market; I will try and keep the science as real as possible; a second character needs to be introduced early on in the book. Having to answer the questions of the group forced me to make necessary decisions; things I needed to consider before I could start writing.
In summary, I found the feedback of my group to be invaluble. If you are an author in a similar position and are considering seeking feedback from others, my suggestion is to go for it, with the following proviso: You must trust those whom you share with. Their feedback should be positive and constructive. Our group was comprised of authors and although this isn’t strictly necessary, it was a benefit – fellow authors have technical expertise, but more importantly for me, they understand how it feels to put yourself and your work into the public arena.