Here in Florida it feels like summer, and throughout the country it feels like winter, but happy first day of Spring! Winter tends to breed sadness and depression, but spring brings me thoughts of pretty flowers, cute animals, and an overall sense of positivity. In honor of the season, I'd like to share my thoughts on the power of positive feedback in the editing process.
I've worked as a college writing tutor for the past three years. Part of our training for assisting other students with papers is to point out areas where the student has done well. Even if these positive remarks appear far less often than the critical remarks, they serve as concrete examples of what the student has done well and should continue to do in the future.
I believe the same mindset should apply to critique partners, beta readers, and anyone else involved in the editing process for creative works. Critique is so important. Without critique, a writer's work will never improve because it will never be forced to change. But critique should not entirely eclipse positive feedback.
Positive feedback tells a writer, "I liked this. You did this well. You should continue along this vein in the future." As someone critiquing a work, it's easy to feel sucked into searching for what to fix, and consequently overlook what already succeeds. If you don't critique a particular section, that implies to the writer that section is fine. Right?
Not necessarily. From a writer's perspective, if you only receive critique, you start to wonder, "Was any of it good?" No matter how braced you are for criticism, it's a very discouraging thought to have.
For me, a little positive feedback goes a long way. One positive comment amid a wave of critique keeps me going, even if that comment is a simple "haha" in the margins. I love that! My magic system might need more explanation or my paragraphs reorganization, but at least that line made someone laugh. On Friday I have a Skype appointment with Eric Smith, an author and literary agent I greatly admire, to discuss my query letter and first ten pages. As the amazing person he is, he already sent me written comments. His critique and suggestions opened my mind to ways I could improve, but the positive comments he wove throughout made it all seem more rewarding. It reminded me how powerful a positive comment is among critique, and how I hope to do the same to other writers when editing their work.
Keep editing and critiquing. That's how writing evolves. But remember the power of positive feedback, and consider wielding it in your own editing process.
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.