Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Negative Feedback Is A Good Thing Too

I had a great email conversation yesterday with a talented writer and good friend of mine about a recent direction I took on my serial thriller I, Death. You see, I'm on the verge of doing something that I think is pretty freaky and startling (yeah okay, lots of people in the story have already died nasty deaths, been in accidents, been beaten and raped - but within that realm, something pretty nasty is coming).

I'm equating where I am right now in the tale with standing on the highest diving platform in the pool and looking down, knowing I'm going to jump, but also that, once I do there's no going back (I'm afraid of heights, so to me that's a pretty big deal) -- but rather than move on to that next little roller coaster of plot twists, I've been enjoying building a relationship between two characters and actually getting all hung up on a character that I've really been enjoying writing about -- (Peter's supply teacher, Mr. Robinson, whom Peter has started affectionately calling Robbie and whom I've modelled on several different favourite teachers I've had as well as the character John Keating that Robin Williams played in Dead Poets Society)

Anyways, my friend put in very nice terms the fact that she found some recents posts in the story a bit slow and more of an "advertisement" for a few Canadian authors rather than plot-advancing posts. They were right. I was using the teacher character to share some pretty amazing authors within scenes that were originally meant to advance the plot by illustrating how Robbie helps Peter deal with his grief and stress through books. But I potentially went too far, dwelled there too long (likely because it was so much fun for me as the author).

I was delighted that she shared this info with me -- I wanted to hug her for helping me out like that.

This all leads to a very important -- no, dare I say critical -- thing for writers that I've heard passed around and I want to share here. Negative feedback is important. Particularly in a case like this, where the story isn't set in stone and being rolled out in real time.

It's the old adage: If you like my writing, tell a friend who you think would enjoy it or go online and post a reader review (places like or -- share the joy. If you don't like my writing, please tell me what it was you didn't like. An email, annoymous comment, whatever.

I can't speak for all writers, but I benefit tremendously from constructive comments and criticism -- particularly when there's something I can do to fix it, like in the case of the story in progress, I, Death. So, if you've been reading it, and I've done some thing that tick you off, let me have it. I can take it.


Georganna Hancock said...

Hi Mark! And high marks to a writer who can take criticism and improve his writing from it. You are rare in my experiences with new writers. Incidentally, my former mother-in-law was a LeFebvre (pronounced le fave) from Iron Mountain, MI, and Canada.

lecram sinun said...

Mark, I agree with you. One of my best critics is my ex-wife (we're still good friends) and I value her oipnion. Even early in my career as a playwright I valued feedback as to improving my pieces.

Kimberly said...

My best critic and the creator of deadlines is my close friend SD. The reason half my postcard stories are any good is because of his unflinching criticism.

Kudos to you Mark for taking such comments well and turning them into a positive. I can't wait to see what becomes of it.

Good Luck!

Jack Slyde said...

I'm starting to learn just how important good feedback is. I recently finished a novel and am now getting feedback on it. I had thought I'd done everything I possibly could to make the story as good as it could be. It's amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can see.