The Experience Of Giving And Receiving Feedback

My brain melted. I spent an evening reading two stories and trying to critique them, constructively of course.

I’ve forgotten how much work giving feedback is, especially to people you hardly know.

I keep going back and forth between I’m being too harsh or honest. Besides, I would want people to be truthful by providing useful suggestions, not tell me my piece is perfect, which everyone did in elementary and high school.

I like to think I have a good grasp of grammar, so I can’t help myself when I see a comma splice or a dangling modifier. But I also realize grammar isn’t always the main issue. Writers want and need feedback on style, flow, etc.

Editing is a lot of work. It’s one thing to edit your own story. It’s a whole other beast entirely when you have to critique someone else’s.

I try to give feedback I’d like to receive. So I do what I can to balance content suggestions with grammatical corrections.

Ideally, I could sit down with someone and talk to them face to face about their work. But when does that ever happen?

On the other side, getting feedback is great but still a challenge.

I hate my ego sometimes for getting in the way.

I don’t always apply every comment. At times, I am dismissive or defensive.

It helps to get an outside perspective on your writing. And I think having strangers critique your story has its advantages. They don’t know you like your family and friends do. Most of the time, they don’t have to go out of their way to protect your feelings.

But I’m careful with my comments. I include question marks following my suggestions. I say maybe and perhaps so many times, it’s not even funny. I tend to add a disclaimer at the beginning or end, saying something along the lines of take what works, toss what doesn’t. If anything is unclear, ask me to clarify.

I guess I’m well aware my ego is big but fragile, yet I don’t want to hurt anyone else’s because I’ve been on both sides of the proverbial coin.

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How To Ask For Feedback And Apply It

I’m going to focus more on feedback for writers. But the following advice could be applicable in general as well.

Write down your worries.

In other words, what’s holding you back from asking and receiving help? Getting your fears on the page might make you realize you have nothing to be afraid of. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

Find someone you trust.

You’re more likely to apply someone’s remarks if you respect the person. Which isn’t to say you can’t approach a stranger for help. Do what works for you.

Ask.

The answer will always be no if you don’t. Imagine how much your work will benefit if you have someone look over your writing for mistakes. Or at the very least, places for improvement because you’re a perfect, flawless writer.

Set boundaries.

Let the other individual know what kind of feedback you want. That way, he or she can focus specifically on your flow, grammar, structure, etc. Better yet, you get the advice you want, and you won’t be blindsided by a curveball out of left field. I hope my baseball analogies and similes don’t bore you all to tears by the end of the year.

Listen.

Don’t be dismissive, especially if you solicited their suggestions in the first place. Hear them out at the very least. They might say something useful. They might not. But either way, you have nothing to lose.

Thank them.

For their time and feedback. After all, they didn’t have to provide you with comments or a critique for that story you’re working on. Unless you’re paying them to be your editor.

Don’t take anything personally.

Easier said than done, I know. But remember no one is attacking you as a person or your work either. Most people are just trying to help.

Use what works. 

You don’t have to use every suggestion.You’re more than welcome to, obviously. But ultimately it’s your story, and you’re the writer of it. Not your computer. Not your cat. Not your chicken.

That’s all my tired brain can come up with. I hope this post is useful or at least not entirely useless.

Good luck asking and applying feedback to make your work better. That’s the goal. I believe in you. Put your ego aside. Improve your writing abilities. I like to think life gets easier. But maybe nothing ever does. Either way, you have what it takes.

Collision | A Short Story

They bumped into each other. Literally.

He blasted rock music using earphones. His eyes diverted, his ears covered.

She had a book open, her eyes scanning the words and her mind in a different world.

Their arms brushed before they collided. The unexpected human contact startled the two, although they expressed their surprise differently.

She slammed the book shut as her eyes darted upwards. He took a step back and held up his hands.

That was the first moment they laid eyes on each other.

A sensation came over her. It wasn’t a feeling or a longing. She felt strange. The girl couldn’t begin to explain the experience.

She stared at him standing across from her.

Around her, other people continued to move, but she stopped.

People had places to be, people to see. She had no where to go.

He had been moving. Sprinting to be exact. The young man shuffled his feet.

Sweat dripped down his forehead and nose.

His mind was in a different place.

The two smiled at each other. They went about their day without another collision.

Different Ways To Organize Your Bookshelves

Lately, I’ve been moving my books around because I’m not entirely happy with the way they’re displayed on my shelves. But I don’t know how I want to rearrange them exactly, so I decided to write a blog post about different ways you can organize your bookshelves.

By alphabetical.

Do the author’s last name or first if you’re so inclined. You might even decide to go organize according to the titles of each book. It’s up to you.

By colour.

Ombré. Rainbow. The possibilities are endless.

By genre.

Have one shelf for fantasy, one for mystery, etc. This is a good way to see what you like or dislike.

By height.

Shelves look more uniform when books are the same size. This is a fact of life. My heart breaks when I buy a novel that doesn’t fit in with the others.

By love.

Have your favourite books on one shelf. You can play favourites with novels. That’s totally ethical.

By status.

What you’ve read, what you’re currently reading, what you want to read. I have a shelf for all the books I own but haven’t read yet. Without fail, I’ll read a few novels on my to-be-read shelf only to buy many more. I almost always enable my own addiction.

By story.

Is it a standalone? A series? Also consider grouping books by the same author together. Because why not?

By type.

Paperbacks here. Hardcovers there. Easy, fast, simple. You’re good to grab and go.

By however you want.

Obviously, you can organize your books any way you like. Feel free to use one or a combination of the methods listed above.

Let me know how you organize your books. I’d love to get some inspiration for my shelves. It doesn’t help that I’m starting to run out of space either. But that’s a problem I’ll tackle another day.

Walk Away | A Short Story

I knew it was going to be a hard conversation. But I wish it didn’t have to be.

“It’s over,” she told me.

“We can make it work.”

She shook her head.

“Why not?” I asked.

“It just can’t, okay?”

I crossed my arms, heaving a sigh. “You haven’t even tried to make things work—”

“I have,” she interrupted. “I’ve tried. Trust me.”

“Try harder,” I mumbled under my breath.

That made her head snap up. “What did you say?”

“Nothing.”

Her head bowed forward. “You deserve better.”

My mouth opened, but no words came out. I didn’t expect to hear those words, especially from her. I didn’t know what to say next.

“Sorry.”

A shiver sent the hairs on my arms stand up. “Don’t apologize.”

“None of this is your fault,” she whispered.

I had a good idea of what she was trying to imply. “This isn’t your fault either. Nothing is.”

Her eyes darkened like the sky when a cloud conceals the sun. “I’m a mess.”

“No, you aren’t.”

She held up a hand. “This has been so hard.”

“Everything good in life is.”

“Everything in life also ends.”

I didn’t disagree with that.

“It’s over, okay?”

As much as I didn’t want to, I nodded. “Okay.”

She patted my arm, forcing a smile. “Take care.”

“You too.” I watched her walk away. She never walked back into my life.

Spewing Bad Writing Advice

I spew plenty of advice all the time, especially when it comes to writing.

So here goes nothing.

The first sentence of your story should make readers want to read the second. So on and so forth.

Try to establish a conflict or some kind of tension as early as possible. If you can do so in the first paragraph, fantastic. If the conflict arises on page one hundred and ninety-nine, you may want to revisit everything before it.

What's necessary? What isn't?

Clean up your messes. It's fine to info dump everything in your head on the page the first time around, but take care of them when you come back to edit.

If you listen to nothing else I say, for which I don't blame you, hear me out on this: you are not obligated to follow anyone's writing advice. Listen. Learn. But you are your own writer.

What works for you may not work for someone else. Similarly, what works for others might not work for you. So you should do what works best for your own writing.

Make your reader care. Give them a reason to. Many even.

Dare to say something different. Think about what others are saying and say the complete opposite. Play devil's advocate.

Never neglect any element of storytelling. Create a compelling character or twenty. Throw them into a messy situation with conflict. Advance your story's plot at a good pace. Establish setting, location. Think about themes.

When you're stuck, consider the five senses. What can your protagonist see or hear? How do they feel? Does he or she smell something strange? Don't forget about taste.

Be unpredictable. Do the unexpected. Surprise yourself and subsequently your readers as well.

Take writing one word at a time, one day at a time.

Writing an entire novel or 100,000 words can seem daunting.

But writing 1,000 words or one page every day for a year isn't so bad.

I'm a broken record, aren't I?

A Confession And Reflection

I have a confession to make. I didn't participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this July. Explains the lack of Camp this and Camp that in my blog posts, doesn't it?

I began the month with every intention to write a novel from scratch. Writing 50,000 words wasn't exactly my goal. I just wanted to write a lot of words for a new novel I could potentially publish one day. Perhaps not traditionally but possibly.

Instead, I wrote a bit of everything. Some prose and poems, fiction and nonfiction.

I don't consider July to be a complete failure. After all, I wrote every day.

Even though I didn't manage to complete the first draft of a novel, I did come out of July with some good writing. Pieces I will likely work on further in the future.

I think I needed a month of writing whatever I wanted. Especially since I worked on a novel not that long ago in April. It's like I went straight from April to July, skipping May and June entirely.

Also, I wanted a slight break from everything. From feeling pressured to meet a certain word count, feeling obligated to stick to a singular story, etc.

I like to believe I've spent the past 30 days or so regrouping. I did some soul-searching wherein I ask myself what in the Herminia do I want in this life. And, to be quite honest, I still don't know.

Right now I want to continue writing as long as possible. Wherever I go, whoever I am a year from now or a decade down the road, I hope I'll always remember my humble beginnings.

I cherish the memory of when I first reached for pen and paper, when I finally let my thoughts flow freely. It seemed so easy at the time.

My first ever Camp NaNoWriMo coincided with an attempt at finishing my first novel. I'll spare all of you the boring details. But even now, I can recall a younger Herminia pressing keys with her not so nimble fingers several years ago. She had a blast.

So I owe it to myself to have as much fun as I used to or more every time I voluntarily face the blank page.

A Pawn | A Short Story

They targeted her. The men set their sights on Ava and didn't rest until they had her where they wanted. Then they made a call.

"Hello Ava?" came the voice on the other end.

"Ava can't come to the phone right now, Joshua. She's a little tied up." That sent the trio of guys gathered around the phone into a chorus of laughter.

"What the hell? Let her go. This has nothing to do with her, Lawrence." Joshua started breathing faster.

Lawrence flicked his gaze to Ava who was unconscious. "By association she has everything to do with this."

"She knows nothing."

"You underestimate her intelligence, Joshie boy. She knows more than you think."

Josh gritted his teeth together. "I swear to God if you so much as touch a hair on her head, you'll—"

"What, huh?" Lawrence chuckled. "Don't worry. She's fine. Isn't that right, Ava?" He grinned as he walked over to her in the corner of the room.

"You'll—" Josh began but Lawrence had hung up before he could get another word out.

Lawrence ran his hand through Ava's long hair. "I'm going to make your boss pay for what he's done. You're just a pawn in this game." He shook his head. "How could someone so smart be so stupid? You would've been fine if you had minded your own damn business. But you decided to get involved, stick your head where it doesn't belong. Unlucky. Or maybe I should say you deserve what's coming."

He clenched his other hand into a fist, but it was precisely that moment Ava woke up.

Her eyelids fluttered open, exposing two dark irises contrasted against the bright whites of her eyes. She took in Lawrence's gruffy face and pale skin before her world went dark again.

22 Lessons I Learned About Writing

These are twenty-two things I have learned as a writer. Or I’m still learning. Or I hope to learn.

  1. Start writing.
  2. Believe in your story.
  3. Take it one word at a time.
  4. Hold onto your dreams.
  5. Pursue your passion.
  6. Set small goals.
  7. Never settle for less than your best.
  8. Make the right sacrifices.
  9. Stay true to your vision.
  10. Write for yourself.
  11. Be your own critic.
  12. Be your own cheerleader.
  13. Don’t let the bad days win.
  14. Talk to other writers.
  15. Accept rejection.
  16. Embrace failure.
  17. Find a support system.
  18. Ask for help when needed.
  19. Exercise your brain and body.
  20. Remember why you started.
  21. Forgive yourself.
  22. Finish your stories.

What’s a lesson you’ve learned?

Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Quit Writing Now Or Ever

  1. You’re a sadist.
  2. You like learning.
  3. You love writing.
  4. You hate everything else.
  5. You’re bad at things that don’t involve words.
  6. You enjoy creating characters.
  7. You enjoy building worlds.
  8. You don’t know what you’d do with your life without writing.
  9. You rise to the challenge of putting words down on the page.
  10. You think writing is your calling.
  11. You need to escape from the horrors of the real world and retreat to another one.
  12. You feel bad before you write.
  13. You feel like a boss while writing.
  14. You feel better after having written.
  15. You rather write than pay for therapy.
  16. You rather write a story than read one.
  17. You write on your own terms.
  18. You want to be published.
  19. You want to prove people wrong.
  20. You don’t care if no one reads your work.
  21. You don’t care if everyone reads your work.
  22. You don’t want to quit writing.