Asking for feedback while writing is a tricky thing.
Because it takes so long to write a novel, it makes sense that you’d crave some positive feedback to inspire you to keep going.
After all, when you’re starting to doubt whether you can bring your vision into reality (especially while you’re slogging away at the middle, arguably the messiest part of a first draft), a boost can work wonders.
Of course, the flip side is that if you’re given any kind of negative (or even critical-yet-constructive) feedback, it can feel like a wound – and you’ll feel even less inspired. Or worse, tempted to give up altogether.
So, what should you do?
Here are a few ideas.
Immerse yourself in inspirational stories
Instead of looking for validation, look for inspiration – outside of your own writing.
How you’re feeling now? Lots of writers have been there. Famous, successful writers. Even if you’re not chasing fame with your writing, it can be comforting to remind yourself that every writer had to start somewhere, and every writer faces challenges – but those challenges can be overcome! If others have been there and lived to tell the tale (quite literally), you can too.
Ride that inspiration wave by reading books like:
- A Writer’s Notebook by Somerset Maugham
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
- On Writing by Eudora Welty
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Release the Bats by DBC Pierre
- Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks
- Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
- The Right to Write by Julia Cameron
- The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
(Thanks to my pals on Twitter for recommending most of these.)
Keep feeding your imagination
When you feel as though you’re bursting with ideas that you need to get down on the page, there’s no room for doubt. If you’ve been working on your novel for a while, that initial flare of creative energy you used to start writing will inevitably have started to die down.
Don’t let it!
What inspired you to write this novel in the first place? Go back to those sources.
Watch TV shows and movies that capture your imagination. Read novels and stories by writers you admire with all your literary soul. Close your eyes and listen to music that conjures images in your head.
Don’t starve your imagination of ideas. Keep feeding it, and it will keep growing.
Ask someone for honest but positive feedback
If you still feel as though you really, really need feedback on your writing, show some of the bits you’re most proud of to someone you love and trust, and ask them to be honest but only positive.
There will be positives, don’t worry. But the criticisms should come later – only when you’ve finished doing what you can with the draft. After all, the critical feedback you’d receive on an unfinished novel will never be the same as that you’d received for a finished novel, and if you receive criticisms at this point, you’ll only risk losing confidence and momentum. It’s just not worth it.
Explain to this person why you’re asking them to do this and let them know you’ll seek more critical feedback later down the line.
Just send them a snippet, and resist telling them the whole plot of your novel. I find this only satisfies your need to tell the story, which means you’ll be less motivated to get it down on paper.
Revel in their praise.
You’ll suspect they’re just being nice, but that’s the point, remember? If you can get them to explain what they found good about your writing and why, you can’t really argue with that – especially when you both know you still have a way to go before the draft is finished, anyway.
This should be enough to help you see the positives in your work when previously all you could see were the bits that need fixing. And hopefully that will help motivate you to keep going.