All posts by Suraya Dewing

Feedback is essential for writers

Giving writers useful feedback is a difficult thing to do. Readers are afraid they might offend and writers worry about upsetting another struggling writer.

Its hard to get a writing career off the ground

They know it’s hard enough to get a writing career off the ground without people saying in blunt terms what they think is wrong. To ask for feedback takes courage. Yet, getting people’s reactions is important. If you get feedback before you publish you might just avoid the horror of discovering some terrible mistake after the book is published.

The purpose of feedback is to assist a writer to create a compelling story. It is not designed to flatter nor should it make a writer feel inadequate. 

Receiving feedback is a critical part of a writer’s journey. Writers who give useful feedback do the writer a great service.

Without it, writers are left to work in a vacuum, not knowing what is going to engage a reader and what might make a reader yawn. As writers, we are close to everything we write and feedback can sometimes be quite confronting.

Writers write from a vulnerable place

That is because what we write comes from our vulnerable selves, a soft fleshy place that is prone to bleeding if prodded too harshly. Yet it is from this place, usually unseen by passers by, that writers produce their best work.

This gives writing authenticity. 

However, writing from our most vulnerable place gives writing authenticity. While getting feedback can be nerve-wracking, writers miss opportunities to attract readers if they do not seek it out. It is an opportunity to involve readers prior to publishing. Readers who have had input into a story feel a sense of ownership and they are more likely to buy the finished book. 

Involving readers

Involving readers in the writing process enables a writer to grow a following. This is important in itself. The world is awash with stories and only the best will survive. The most outstanding will rise to the top with the help of a following that feels involved in the writing process. 

This does not mean that writers compromise their story. Feedback should point out where the story did not deliver on its promise…not suggest an entirely new story line. 

There is a lot to consider when writing

There are so many things to consider when writing. For example, is the writing tight or floppy about the edges? Is there too much or too little dialogue? Is it convincing? Does the story have an inciting event that sets the story on its way? Does it have a convincing climax, a believable resolution…? Those are just a few points to consider. There are many more.

Constructive feedback

The Story Mint encourages readers to give writers feedback. The only stipulation is that the feedback be constructive and helpful. The serials enable writers to practice their storytelling skills and to hear from readers. Writers can leave more substantial pieces of work-in-progress on The Writers’ Pad. This is a place where writers can test the market before they publish…see how readers react. They can get private, more in-depth feedback through The Story Mint’s assessment service.

Here are six tips for giving feedback:

  • Start with at least one positive and end with a positive.
  • Be specific. For example, a writer is describing to characters arguing but you, as reader, are not convinced. Explain why.
  • Be constructive. Come up with examples of how someone might approach a problem area without giving them an alternative. Every writer must retain his or her own voice.
  • Be encouraging. A writer has worked long hours to produce the piece of writing you are reading, respect that.
  • Be clear. The clearer you are with your feedback the more you learn about the craft of writing and why you have reacted the way you have.
  • Be encouraging. We don’t want to leave writers feeling as if they should never write again.

Suraya Dewing is the CEO of The Story Mint and creator of Stylefitan automated feedback tool for writers.

Writers need Feedback

Giving writers useful feedback is a difficult thing to do.  Readers are afraid they might offend and writers worry about upsetting another struggling writer. It’s hard enough to get a writing career off the ground without people saying in blunt terms what they think is wrong.

The purpose of feedback is to assist a writer to create a compelling story. It is not designed to flatter nor should it make a writer feel inadequate.

Receiving feedback is a critical part of a writer’s journey. Writers who give useful feedback do the writer a great service.

Without it, writers are left to work in a vacuum, not knowing what is going to engage a reader and what might make a reader yawn.  As writers, we are close to everything we write. Our words come from our vulnerable selves, a soft fleshy place that is prone to bleeding if prodded too harshly. Yet it is from this place that writers produce their best work. This gives writing authenticity.

While getting feedback can be nerve-wracking, writers miss opportunities to attract readers if they do not seek it out. It is an opportunity to involve readers prior to publishing. Readers who have had input into a story feel a sense of ownership and they are more likely to buy the finished book.

Involving readers in the writing process enables a writer to grow a following. This is important in itself. The world is awash with stories and only the best will survive. The best will rise to the top with the help of a following that feels involved in the writing process.

This does not mean that a writer compromises the story. Feedback should point out where the story did not deliver on its promise…not suggest an entirely new story line.

There are so many ways writing can miss the mark. There are so many things to consider when writing. For example, is the writing tight enough or floppy about the edges? Is there too much or too little dialogue? Is it convincing? Does the story have an inciting event that sets the story on its way? Does it have a convincing climax, a believable resolution…?

Alice’s future – through the looking glass

Creativity will be the valued commodity of the future.

No-one has to be a rocket scientist to realise that the world is changing at a phenomenal rate. While many of the underlying principles we learnt at school continue to be relevant what we do with that knowledge has changed. We are looking at a future where creativity across all disciplines will be a valued commodity.

This is especially relevant for writers.

Success relies on writers ability to create new concepts and works of the imagination.

Logic underpins our most admired inventions. This is especially so for robots and technology. What technology’s ascendancy has done, however, is to throw a curve ball at us all because all those jobs, created by the application of logic are becoming redundant. Robots are taking over the mehanical jobs that are driven by logic.

Now creativity and soft skills, once seen as less important, are rising in importance. Creativity and humanity will become the valued commodity because human emotion is the thread that sets humans apart from machines.

The ability to tap into the vein of insight we all have but which is often covered by the clutter of everyday life will be encouraged and valued.

Over the summer period (winter in the Northern hemisphere) I took a step back and read two excellent books. These two books discussed the qualities that will create success in the21st century.

The first was 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari, and the other was The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani.

For a writer what these two authors say is exciting. Navigating through the shift in emphasis from logic to creative will be demanding. However, writers should find this relatively easy because their work is creative, whether it is fiction or non-fiction.

Yuval Noah Harari makes it clear that artificial intelligence will create new jobs while making others redundant. Medical diagnostics will be replaced by robots but the people who manage the robots will be highly skilled and in demand.

Similar shifts will occur across all industries and we, as writers, need to think about how that applies to our world. Artificial intelligence may analyse big data sets to create stories but that is probably not on the urgent shopping list of those people solving world problems.

Machines can analyse more data than any human ever will, but who sets the parameters of the analysis? People.

The skills the world will need in the future are those that relate to human emotion and understanding.

Harari makes this distinction in his book.

“Intelligence is the ability to solve problems; consciousness is the ability to feel things — pain, hate, love, pleasure.” Yuval Noah Harari.

Writers who tap into the human quality of being able to feel will prosper.

Kurt Vonnegut said: “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.”

We engage readers by encouraging them to empathise with our characters and their journeys. We all relate to people who overcome obstacles in magnificent ways. That is life.

So, rather than becoming downhearted by the number of books coming onto the market due to the digitisation of publishing, see how you can create powerful characters whose fortunes readers want to follow.

Sources:

Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (London: Jonathan Cape, 2018).

Creativity – is it important?

Is creativity important? Ask any writer frantically juggling work and home commitments with finding time to write and they will say, creativity is as essential as breathing.’

The importance of acknowledging the need to express ourselves creatively was brought home to me when a member of The Story Mint, who had not written for a while, contacted us with a chapter for her story. In her message she wrote, “It feels fantastic to be writing again.”

She went on to explain that until she found time to write she was close to exploding .

The energy that drives us to create is undeniable. If we do not take time to be creative whether it is as a writer or in some other way, something tightens up inside.

Being creative is part of being alive.

The obvious forms of creativity are in the arts but there are many forms of creativity – a setting up a new business is intensely creative for example.

Thomas Merton says, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

Any project that takes us into another world where we find new truths and discover new insights is a creative process.

“To send light into the darkness of men’s [and women’s] hearts – such is the duty of the artist,” says the great composer Robert Schumann.*

Artistic expression is the engine that drives creativity and what we produce can lighten a saddened heart or reveal a truth others had not considered.

This is the absolute importance of creativity…it challenges and informs. The reason our writer from The Story Mint thought she was going to burst if she didn’t write was because something within her demanded expression. If left ignored, that need would have mutated.

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his [her] life, every quality of his [her] mind, is written large in his [her] works.” Virginia Woolf.*

And why does no expression of creativity exactly copy someone else’s? Because every person’s stories is unique. The way we express that story is also unique and because of that every story lights up a part of the world in a special way. Our creativity is our link to the past and our vision of the future. We intuitively tap into that when we express ourselves creatively.

Sometimes finding time to write is really difficult. Life takes over and fills the days. However, this is what I do… I allocate a day (Sunday in my case) for writing and I do nothing else. That way, my brain switches over from work mode to writing and all distractions are parked to one side.

Do you think creativity is important?

Suraya Dewing
Chief Executive Officer and Founder

The Story Mint
http://www.thestorymint.com