As a writer, I rely on quality feedback from my readers. I know there are many writers who prefer to write in a vacuum, absent of comment or criticism, and this may actually be the preferred way of writing for most authors. “Write with the door closed first,” Stephen King says.
But this is not for me.
Having grown up playing video games (Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Nintendo, PC gaming, Funspot, Half Moon Arcades, Salisbury Beach arcade), I thrive on the immediate feedback that they provide. Spending a year writing a novel without showing a single page to anyone is incomprehensible to me. Call me needy but that’s the way I operate. I often tell people at appearances that if I could, I would write on a giant laptop screen while people behind me watched the action, sentence by sentence, nodding their approval or disapproval along the way.
And if all goes well, you may actually be able to do just that with my next book. If you want to. If anyone would want to.
Thankfully I have a solid core of friends who read my books, chapter by chapter, as I writer and offer feedback in a variety of forms. While the content and story tend to remain the same regardless of their opinions, my work is often clearer, more concise and better targeted as a result of their comments.
The Lone Gunman recently posted some excellent advice on eliciting quality feedback that I highly recommend. I couple of his more salient points include:
- If you give blunt feedback, you are actually less likely to get blunt feedback in return. The law of reciprocity does not apply.
This one might be difficult for me, since I tend to be direct and no-nonsense in my advice to most people. A friend of mine has supported my quest to become a life coach, saying that my willingness to tell people what they do not want to hear could prove to be a valuable asset in this arena. But this comes natural to me, since I arrogantly (and sometimes foolishly) assume that I am always correct. Gustave Flaubert said that “Happy are those who don’t doubt themselves,” and I think this sums me up rather well. When you know that you are right, it’s hard not to be blunt.
- Less experience often means better advice.
I have often found this maxim to be true. The ability to provide feedback is not specifically correlated with experience, and oftentimes the best ideas for an industry comes from outside its walls. When those walls are especially high and the inhabitants behind them are especially deaf, the industry often fails. One need not be a writer to offer me quality feedback on my book.
- Be wary of people whose lives look perfect.
Also true. If the seeming perfection that a person has attained has come from the pulling up of bootstraps, then I trust the person’s feedback. But if a person’s life has instead been governed by a silver spoon or blind luck, I tend to discount their feedback considerably.
The best example of responding in an honest, direct and effective way to feedback has been Dominos recent Pizza Turnaround campaign, in which they have actively publicized their customer’s most frequent complaints about the product (the crust tastes like cardboard) and attempted to do something about it while the public watches. The video, which is surprisingly compelling considering it’s basically a Dominos advertisement, is below: