Writing can be a very solitary existence. This can be a positive when you are first working on a piece. Whether you write short stories, short or long fiction, whatever you are into, having a period of time where you can incubate an idea leads to a truth in your own work. Your idea grows in confidence as you pour it out on the page.
At some point, most writers look for some feedback. We write because we want to share with the world, and most of us want them to share right back. Some author’s use beta readers, some use critique groups, others have four or five trusted friends they will send a manuscript out to for impressions. There is no right or wrong way to do this.
Perhaps the most important part of the entire process is knowing what works to lead you to success. What is your end game? Publication? Sharing online? A gift for friends and family? Are you in a hurry to get your work out there? Do you have loads of time to let it percolate?
Beta readers can be wonderful. They are widely available and generally work on a faster schedule. Their feedback can be tailored. Are you looking for emotional resonance? Look for someone who has the skillset. Is it a historical and you want a fact checker? Ask for someone specific who you know works in your time period. Do you need some grammar help? I bet there is a rule spotter out there looking to markup somebody’s work for fun!
Critique groups can be harder to nail down. For these to work, you need to be quite specific on what you need. Don’t get a group larger than you can work with. Do you want them to work on a chapter a week? Can you keep up with that kind of critique for four people every single week and still produce new pages? Do you want all kinds of feedback? Do you want plotting help? Do you want to meet online or in person? Do you want only other writers in your genre or do you want more than one perspective? Do you want traditionally published? Self-published? Unpublished? A mix? Be prepared to know what you want and express it. The first one or two groups might not work for you, so maybe try a trial and see what happens. Not all personalities will mesh. The work might be too much. Keep trying until you find a good fit.
Having a set of friends or other writers you send a manuscript out to once you feel you have it in a workable final draft, can be immeasurable. Be careful who you pick. Your parents, siblings and best friends may want to give you only positive feedback. Writers tend to notice some things, but don’t forego a non-writer friend. Sometimes hearing a story just doesn’t work at a certain point from someone who inhales books can be the most valuable thing you hear.
I know what I like and need. I need more of a hybrid group. I call them writer’s groups. I like three or four people who want to talk about books, write things, critique, story board, talk about industry, take retreats together. I want it all. I need this kind of support to grow as a writer. It’s really hard to find, and I am looking again right now. Several local groups have some critique groups, but I haven’t found something just right yet. I’ll be putting this in my business plans for 2016.
Takes stock. What is going to fill you up? It’s fine to give to other people, but if you are always running on empty, you can’t do your job or help anyone else. What kind of feedback do you need to be successful?