We all know that writing a novel takes a village. But there are things to consider before asking your friends and loved ones to give you feedback, especially if you are still writing your first draft. These three considerations will help you decide if now is the right time for feedback and, if so, how to ask for it so that it’s actually helpful.
Hello writers. When, who, and how to ask for feedback on your manuscript is a very personal decision. For some of us, it’s painful to even think about someone looking at a messy, incomplete first draft. For others of us, we feel compelled to ask people to read it throughout the process, to reassure ourselves that we’re on the right track we wanna be on. The first thing I wanna say is that there is no right way to write a novel, and there is no right time to ask for feedback. You are in charge of your own story and your own writing process. That said, I do have some thoughts about when and how to get feedback, particularly when it comes to a first draft. I’ll talk in a future video about getting feedback during the revision stage and before submitting your manuscript for publication. But today we’re just going to talk about the pros and cons, the hows and whens of getting feedback on your first draft.
The first question I want you to ask yourself is why do you want feedback while you’re writing your first draft? Now, at first glance, the answer might seem obvious, but it can be a little complex. It’s possible that what you really want is for someone to give you permission, to tell you that this story is worthy of being told, and that you are a good enough writer to even bother. A lot of us actually really want that deep down because we doubt ourselves and our stories. If that’s what you’re looking for, truly, consider what you’re likely to get if you throw your pages into the hands of fellow writers or loved ones. You’re going to get praise, sure, because they wanna be supportive, but you’re also going to get comments and questions that, while well-intentioned, could discourage you further if you’re already doubting yourself. Here’s the thing, receiving critical feedback on our writing doesn’t have to be scary, but we have to be really ready to receive it.
And honestly, I’m not sure most of us are when we’re writing our first drafts. First drafts are where we are telling ourselves the story. As my friend Julie Artz says, it’s where we’re playing in the mud, figuring it all out. It’s supposed to be messy, and it’s also supposed to be a vulnerable space for us. Now, if you’re determined to ask people to read your early pages and you’re sure you’re emotionally ready for the feedback, then the next question is, who will you ask? The first and foremost qualification in my mind for anyone who’s going to read early pages for me, is that I trust them to be gentle and kind. For those of us who have given birth, it’s not unlike considering who you want in the room with you when the baby is being born, because that’s what writing a first draft is.
It’s messy and vulnerable and not pretty <laugh>. And while we might need some coaching, what we really need is support and encouragement and love. Now, if you are still determined to bring someone into this phase of the project with you, then I encourage you to consider what you’re asking them for. At this point in your writing process, suggestions on a micro level, like word choice or setting descriptions, are just not going to be useful. Those scenes might end up on the cutting room floor anyway. Instead, brainstorm a list of big picture questions for them to answer; things you wanna make sure are coming across in your character arc and your story development. Now, I’m a little biased in this because I’m a book coach <laugh> (a lot biased, I’ll admit it), but in my experience, if you’re really looking for support in writing a first draft, this is a great time to bring in a professional.
We know how to support writers, and we know what’s important to focus on at each stage of the writing process. Now, if you’ve never heard of book coaching and you’re a little intrigued, I’d love to talk with you. You’ve waited long enough to become the writer you’ve always wanted to be and to get your first draft out of your head. My superpower is helping writers craft a solid first draft of their novel. One that’s more like a third or fourth draft even. If you’d like to talk about how to make that happen, schedule a free call with me right now. Don’t let your dream stay on the back burner anymore. Go to hellowriters.net/introcall, and let’s talk about how to get your novel written. Receiving feedback on your writing can be empowering rather than scary or discouraging, but you as the writer want to be really intentional about who, when, and why you’re asking for feedback. If you like what you heard here, be sure to subscribe so that you’ll be notified every time a new tip is available. And if you know someone who might enjoy this content, please share this video with them. I’ll talk to you next time. Happy writing.