Well, since everyone is doing it early, I guess I'll post for today too (I know, what a silly reason, but sometimes, I'm more sheep like than I like to admit). If you haven't heard, this is the Insecure Writer's Support Group, and we are lead by the Captain Ninja, Alex. Go, sign up, and release your fears into the world.
I’m terrified of giving people feedback. Terrified.
It’s scary because there’s no way to gauge their reaction. Will they suddenly hate you for your suggestion? Will they flame your blog forever more? Will your helpful suggestions be the last straw that puts someone over the edge to trunk their novel for the end of their days?
Will they hate me?
Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I received some bad feedback. I gave some bad feedback too. In fact, if you tally all the feedback I’ve received versus how much I’ve given, well, I’ve got a lot more bad feedback to receive before I’m square with the universe. The point is, that feedback hurt. We’ve all been hurt.
And almost as annoying, I’ve given someone heartfelt feedback and in return I received a “Well, it’s clear you don’t get my work, but thanks for trying, I can see we won’t work out.” While honest and much harder to say, I was pretty urked that I’d sunk in time, and the other writer didn’t give any return feedback. That was solidly not fair.
In short, I’ve been judged on the feedback. The other writer didn’t even take the time to look over my work, just wrote me off as worthless, and since they’d gotten what they wanted, they were done with me.
That was frustrating, but then there are times when you read someone else’s work and all you can see is how terrible it is (no, this isn’t anyone’s work I’ve read in years). How do you give feedback on unmitigated disaster?
Worse, is it really an unmitigated disaster? What makes me qualified to say so? How do I handle that?
I’m always worried that when I give feedback on public feedback sessions (MSFV for example), the other participants think I’m a raging bitch because I didn’t keep my feedback to “Wow, this is so wonderful.”
For the record, I’m a scientist, I don’t do fluff. If I say I’d love to read something, it means I would be genuinely thrilled to read that thing.
Which leads me to the problem I have. I think the reason that I get nervous about giving feedback is that I don’t code things. There’s nothing to read into my words. I’m a scientist. I try really hard to say what I mean. Sometimes I fail miserably, and sometimes I get it just right. I am honest. Over the years of giving horrible feedback, I’ve learned that straight honesty isn’t all of it. There’s the sandwich method, the straight talk method, the comedy method (DO NOT DO THIS! IT DOESN’T WORK! EVER), and even the bereaved method.
I know how much time and effort writers put in to understanding an agent’s form rejection letter, how much time are they putting in to decoding my feedback? And there’s nothing to decode! Am I accidentally sending mixed signals? Is there a secret way of saying ‘you and your book suck’ that I just don’t know about? Is there some secret language that I’m just too dumb to have found? Is “I love this,” code for “Not another one?” What does it all mean?
Right, that might be a little extreme, but that is exactly why giving feedback scares me.
::sigh:: back to the trenches.