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How much feedback should writers get?

Feedback for Writers

I’ve been an Indiana Jones fan since Raiders of the Lost Ark. So I went to see The Dial of Destiny. When the opening credits showed four screenwriters, I knew the movie was going to be a mess even before . . . well.

When you see more than two people with screenwriting credits, it’s always a bad sign. It means no one trusted anyone and everyone stomped all over whatever vision anyone else had and then everyone lobbied for their favorite bits to stay in whether they made sense to the final story or not. Usually a director who thinks they’re a writer is involved, and a couple of nervous producers are casting doubt.

What you need when a story is going wrong is an editor, not a bunch more writers.

Anyway, this isn’t a post about screenwriting. It’s a post about letting people stomp all over your vision. 

feedback for writers - foundations of storytelling

Best Tips for Getting Feedback for Writers

I’m a big fan of using a beta reader or two to give you feedback on your work. Getting another pair of eyes on your ms is essential to helping you see obvious problems you might have overlooked. It’s notoriously difficult to see the flaws in your own work. 

But I cannot count the number of people who have come to me after they sent their work out to four or five or ten beta readers and the accumulated feedback is just . . . a tangled knot of contradiction and confusion.

Readers A and B liked the main character but Readers C and D did not; Readers E and F had a problem with the inciting incident (implausible) but Readers A and D did not; Readers C and F found the ending unearned but A and E thought not a word should be changed whereas Reader B wanted the nuclear bomb to go off after all.

Seeking lots of feedback is like having four people write a screenplay. You’re going to wind up with a tangled knot of confusion when your goal is a strong, engaging story.

A good dev editor can help you make sense of this mass of contradictory feedback, but I would recommend not getting it in the first place. Pick one or two beta readers and go on with your life. You know what story you’re trying to tell. Let a small number of people help you see places where the cracks show. That’s it. 

A good developmental editor is skilled at developing feedback for writers.

As a dev editor, I’m happy if you pick me instead or in addition to the one or two beta readers, but in any event do not fall victim to the idea that if one is good, five must be better. It’s not.

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