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Don’t look a gift writer in the mouth

May 3, 2013

A friend of mine is a published author. This friend offered to read my manuscript and critique it without my asking. It was like I hit the lottery on my birthday, the same day Santa brought my Christmas presents early.

Okay, I exaggerate a little. But not a lot. A published author sat down with my work and read it all the way through with the soul intent of giving me feedback. Helping me. This person didn’t just read it the way you read a standard mystery novel. There was thought applied and time spent considering things. It was a major unsolicited gift, a precious thing. It was something I’ll always be thankful for.

On the other hand, one of the reasons I left a critique group a few years back was the quality of the critiques of my work. I got back notes that there were grammatical errors. Considering the book was written in first person, you have to expect some of those. In first person, the narrator is a character, speaking to you. Unless he’s Higgins, from Magnum, PI, there are going to be some grammatical errors.

Ohhhhhhhhhh myyyyyyyyyyyy gawd! You’ve split an infinitive again! How could you?

Then there was “It’s fine.”

Dude, I spent 45 minutes on your work and you come back to me with ‘It’s fine.’

Or pointing out issues and getting batch after batch of work with the same issues and the statement “I’m just screwing around.”

As a former boss of mine once said, “Feedback is a gift.” For writers, it’s a valuable gift. When it’s feedback you don’t pay for, it’s an exceedingly valuable gift. Other writers have the same time pressures you do. Most of them have outside jobs. Families. Bathtubs to replace. When writers are generous, and most of them are, they’re putting you before some of their writing and on the same level as all the other stuff they need to get done.

They’re investing in your improvement.

If you’re a new writer, this might not occur to you. You don’t know what you’re doing and you’re eager to find out what you don’t know. Asking questions is good. Asking well is better. Don’t ask until you’ve done your homework and you’re stuck. Or unless it’s something you can’t know with out their experience. If it’s something you can research, don’t ask.

And don’t ask with the expectation of getting a response. A yes answer or a helpful response is, as mentioned, a gift. People aren’t obligated to give gifts. Gifts given out of obligation aren’t gifts, they’re payment.

And finally, and most important, say thank you. Buy their book. If you liked it, say so publicly. Let them know you recognize their actions as a gift and you appreciate that gift.

The writing friendship you develop may benefit you in ways you never imagined.

 

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One Comment
  1. May 3, 2013 9:38 am

    Chris,

    Excellent post! I have been on the receiving end of feedback and am in the final stages of providing feedback to a writer who recently completed his manuscript. Let me tell you, reading this story has been a dream–I can’t put it down. I am invested now in making sure this manuscript gets published. Yes, this task is taking up time, but I hope my observations and editing help this writer–I am paying it forward 🙂

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