Create50: Mind Your Language by Dee Chilton

We’re not taking about *@<!%*# swear words here, We’re talking about effectively communicating feedback to other writers.

Regardless of the final outcome of our submissions, taking part in the Create50 initiative is one of the best free* educational processes writers could wish for.

The stories are short and the system allows us to see all feedback, therefore, we can easily read as many stories and associated feedback notes as we want and further develop our understanding and appreciation of feedback and evolve those necessary skills. We can learn from others how best to give and receive feedback… and how not to.

Whatever of our level of experience, we need to be very much aware that our comments say an enormous amount about us, not just as writers but as decent human beings, and can earn us a reputation amongst our peers and other industry members. We need to bear in mind that a bad reputation could come back to haunt us one day.

No matter how well-intentioned, if we are not careful, comments that we consider to be enthusiastic and helpful advice can come over as officious and unsupportive or as personals digs, which can appear to be more about showing off our own ‘expertise’.**

As writers, we should appreciate that with feedback:

  • It’s part of the process we have to deal with. We need to grow a thick skin and not to take it personally. We must develop the skill of reading the subtext of the notes to help us identify where our writing and/or stories are not working and where we can improve; and accept that we can always improve!
  • It’s not a ‘love-in’ exercise for writers. We have to accept our writing/stories won’t resonate with everyone. Just as every intended final audience member is entitled to their opinion, so is every reviewer. Feedback is subjective; readers bring their own ‘baggage’ to a piece of writing that we cannot know or control. One will love something, another will hate it. We don’t have to agree with every note but look for where they make valid points and/or where the notes are consistent with other reviews. We have to work out which notes are the most helpful for us in improving our writing, stories and skills.

As reviewers we must also appreciate that:

  • The tone of our feedback is very important. Whist we are entitled to our opinion, we should always aim to communicate our concerns in an open, supportive manner, paying attention to how our comments might be received; one person’s friendly banter is another person’s verbal (or textual) abuse.
  • Whilst we should point out something that doesn’t work for us or something we don’t understand, and whilst we might offer some suggestions as to how the writing or story might be improved to illustrate the point, we shouldn’t say something is ‘wrong’ with the writing or story and tell the writer how they should ‘fix the problems’ with the story or their writing technique/skills.
  • If a writer disagrees with our feedback, we should remember they are entitled to do so, and not be drawn into an argument about who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’. If we can clarify our point in order to explain something and feel it will help them understand better then we should, but if we can’t or feel they are not open to a clearly made point, then it’s better to leave it at that.
  • We should approach every story with an open mind and consider whether we can ‘add value’ that will assist the writer in refining their idea and help them to make it the best they can. If we can’t, then maybe we shouldn’t comment.

There’s hundreds of great stories waiting to be read on the Create50 site right now and there will be many more in the coming 10 weeks before the submission window closes. Immerse yourself and enjoy the experience.

If you haven’t already, check the initiative out at http://www.create50.com/.

Read, write, advance your skills and have loads of fun.

* Create50 is free to register on, read and give feedback, however, each script submitted for feedback requires a one off £5 fee.

** Not that this writer considers herself a self-appointed ‘expert’.

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