Sometimes it can be tough starting a business, a new book idea, or even marketing yourself to an audience when you need to make all of the most crucial decisions alone. Even when you do get advice from others, they might not share the same vision or goals as you.
I’m curious how you all get feedback on your stories, companies, projects, or goals? How do you determine what is and isn’t worthy advice in the vital decision-making process? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. ~ WM
Hi Winston and everyone. Lots of great comments and advice here! As writers I think we all share similar experiences and insecurities about getting feedback and marketing. I find for me the key is weighing the feedback I get based on how invested the person is in me/my writing.
I’ve taken a few college writing courses but found that the feedback was marginal at best because a random classmate just doesn’t care about your work as much as you do. On the other hand, my aunt (who is an avid reader) just gave one of my stories the full editor treatment. Wow, was that eye opening! She found a gapping plot hole and said I was “trying to hard” in a few parts. It was sage and great advice that has helped me improve.
I think constructive criticism from a reader that really wants to help is invaluable. Once you do get brave enough to put your work out there gathering readers definitely the hard part. I read once that you have to work for every reader that you get. It is so true. And I agree with LJK and Winston, reading out loud even to yourself is hugely helpful!
Marketing myself to a market is something I did a lot of in the past, trying (sometimes successfully) to get stories in print publications. I'd start by reading new work aloud to a writers' group - in-person groups - and see how it goes. I try to read my stuff as if I never saw it before. Other writers' feedback helps. Then I tried, back then, to sell it to strangers. Intros are vital, as is following up when someone says "I like your work but for our mag..." and writing to 'spec' ... The main thing is to hang on to confidence, and seek clarity in all exchanges involved in selling a story. Keep at it, and also be willing to listen to reasons a piece is rejected.
I'm a little late here but I wanted to first say thank you to all the commenters, and of course to you Winston for opening up a little corner of the internet for writers. I'm very grateful. There is a lot of good advice here. I don't have any of my own to share, but I do have some from Stephen King's "On Writing." He says that his first draft is always written with the door closed, meaning he doesn't show anyone his work while it's in process for the first go round. I may be adding my own spin on it, but I think it's because the idea is fragile. We're likely to give in to the whims of any critique, change the whole story up, and muck up the idea that brought us to the page to begin with. When he writes his second draft, he writes with the door open. He has a few trusted readers, namely his wife, and he takes her advice to heart. I think we have to find that person or those people who care about us enough to be honest, but believe in what we're doing. Not just any person.
Along those lines, I also think that we should expect to try and fail hundreds if not thousands of times. There are so few examples of writers who hit it out of the park on the first novel, essay, poem. I think if we're putting work out and getting feedback, even if it's negative, we have won the battle. I started submitting short stories to science fiction/speculative fiction magazines this year. I've only gotten rejections, and with each one I told myself, "You're doing it. You're a writer." Because that is the path that every hero writer you read has gone down before you. I'm so proud of everyone here for doing it at all.
I would LOVE feedback. In fact, I would embrace it. I'm always asking for people to leave a comment. That way, I know I'm not just writing to the crickets in the night. In fact, today's the one day in which I received comments, and that was for a comment I left on someone else's page. Go figger. In the meantime, I can't get them to leave a comment on my own stuff. It makes you wonder if it's because it's that bad, or they just can't be bothered. But when it comes to beginning a new project, well, there's no one I can turn to for advice. I tend to write stories that are long, and of interest to me. I mean, who else would be interested in the Mau Mau uprising of the 50s? I try to change things up so that it's interesting to me. I'm of the opinion that if I write something for me, maybe someone else will like it. I always listen to whatever anyone has to say about the stories I write. As to whether or not I take that advice and implement it, well, that depends on what advice they give me. Is it story, plot, or structure? You don't have to take the advice, but you owe it to yourself to at least listen to it. In the meantime, I wait...
Great question! For me, when I'm working on a project, I try to figure out what I don't know or understand about it yet. If it's something I can teach myself, I learn it. If it's something currently over my head, I seek out experts (with the understanding that even "experts" don't always have the right answers). I always ask those "experts" to justify their advice before I decide whether to take it. If it makes sense to me, I'm more likely to try it. If it sounds wrong for the situation or feels off in some way, I will probably avoid it. If they refuse to explain their answers, it's a huge red flag. Anyone who plays the "because I said so" or "because that's just how it's done" game does not deserve your trust. So, hear everyone out, weigh all the advice, and let your instincts and values make the final call--not the name, reputation, or credentials of the one giving the advice.
I've had a lot of issues in the past--in writing and other endeavors--where I got questionable help from professionals and wound up worse off than if I had just gone it alone. At the time, I didn't have the confidence to trust my gut and my abilities--and I didn't have the nerve to tell people in perceived positions of authority where to stick their bad advice ;-) I wanted to believe in them because I didn't want to have to do the work on my own--it seemed too daunting. There's still a lot to learn. But now that I'm older and hopefully a little wiser, I have fewer of those issues and it seems less scary. As time goes on, it has become easier to stand up for my vision, even if it's not shared by others. It's always easier to let someone else take the blame for one's failures, but I'd rather be wrong on my terms than on someone else's. And there is a good chance my terms are the right ones after all--for me, at least.
I’ve had a lot of advice in my time, some I took but most of my endeavors were by trial and error. It’s good to listen to many so that you are well informed and curiosities are fulfilled. Successful people have great ideas but have probably failed along the way. My advice to you would be to gather all the info you can about the project or endeavor, let it soak in awhile, then go with your gut, it’s usually right. Don’t let fear determine the decision but know that fear makes you cautious. I would love to write but I wouldn’t even know where to begin, any advice?
I follow up with the person who requested the quote, or processed the transaction. It’s usually the outside sales person or the purchasing agent with a dealer. You get feedback on your product from the main person doing the selling and purchasing of your products. Just reach out to them and ask, how did we look, who’s my competition, what can I do to earn your business.