Friday, March 23, 2012

Positive or Negative Advice: Which is better?

Which is better, positive or the negative feedback?

I'll tell you, since I ask. It's negative feedback.

I'm talking about proper negative feedback, the sort that helps you be a better writer.

For instance, my editor tore up my run-on sentences. She tore into my weaker constructs, and forced me to be precise and clear on my scenes.

It was the first time someone had given me negative feedback. Truly. People have said they don't like my writing, or said they didn't like that story, but that's not feedback -- that's an opinion. Fine, I say, you're ugly.

When folks tell me they like my writing, it inspires me to write more, and I can tell it's a clean spot in my work.

But you know the best compliment of all? It's when a fierce critic says nothing at all.

Take my editor. Please.

It was during my final edit for Out of the Great Black Nothing (see sidebar). My editor ripped up every chapter. It was a bloodbath. If you've ever been gutted like a fish, you'll know what I mean.

Except for one chapter.

It happened to be my favorite chapter of the book.

She read it through without a mark. She said nothing about it, except she moved to the next chapter and continued working that filet knife in and out, in and out.

Anyway, I stand by my belief that negative feedback is what makes you a better writer -- properly fed back, that is.

What do you think? Is negative feedback the best way to improve? Not just for writing, but for any activity you are trying to master.

- Eric


Stephen Henry said...

Yes I think so. Sometimes it's hard to see your own mistakes until someone points them out. It can be crushing at first especially when it's something you believe you're good at but once you learn from it and become better it's all worth it. I failed my driving test a couple months back after thinking I would pass. Now I'm a better driver for it and next Tuesday I'll be putting on the crash helmet again for a second go at it.

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

While I agree that the right kind of negative feed back is most beneficial, I also believe you need a healthy dose of great comments to keep everything balanced. We are fragile, us writers, and we need to hear a little good with a lot of bad! or vice versa!

dolorah said...

Yep; properly offered. I do learn more from honest feedback. Not that i don't enjoy compliments either.

Your book is haunting my nightstand. I took on a couple of beta reads just about the time I got it and I'm still working on those critiques. But I'm drawn to the image of that rocking chair.

Have a good weekend Eric :)


Anne Gallagher said...

No, you're ugly.

Negative feedback, from a person who likes your story to begin with, is a boon to the soul. Yes, it may take several moments to calm down after looking at all the blood, but it does indeed help you be a better writer.

And I'm of the critique fashion to not necessarily point out what I like either. And then I remember to put some positive comments in.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I need both. Good criticism is sandwiched between praise.

Wine and Words said...

Jeeze...just give it to me straight. Why beat around the bush. It's a huge ass hedge and I'll be coming around the bend full steam.

Phoenix said...

The big fat asterisk I attach to both negative and positive feedback is whether it's constructive. Negative feedback for the sake of making me feel like shit won't do anything but piss me off. Positive feedback just for the sake of making me feel better about myself does nothing for my art. So negative or positive, give me something to work with. Tell me what I've done right and tell me what I've done wrong but sure as hell tell me something useful.

PS I have will never look at a Pomeranian the same way after your comment, which had me shaking in laughter at my work desk. Damn you!! :)

Christine Danek said...

I agree. I went through a period of only opinions vs. honest feedback and it was frustrating. Now, I know how to weed through it better and I love when I get someone to give me constructive feedback. It only helps me grow and it does make me want to write more.