Meaningful feedback and how to get it

Feedback on your novel from an experienced editor is vital. But even before you’re at the stage of submitting your book for a structural edit, your writing will be helped immensely if you can access feedback from a trusted source during the initial developmental stages of your work.

Your friends and significant others are always going to love what you write – or say they do – no matter what. So it’s important to find someone who is not emotionally invested in you as a person, who has enough experience either in reading or writing to recognise what’s working and what’s not working in your novel, and who can articulate their thoughts to you in a meaningful and constructive way.

A local writing group can be a good source of critiquing, and you’ll be able to locate one close to you by contacting your nearest writers’ centre (see below). But writing groups aren’t for everyone and there are an increasing number of alternatives.

One of the fastest-growing online critique sites is wattpad. Membership is free and the website is very simple to navigate, allowing you to submit your entire novel or individual chapters as you go. Typically, feedback on wattpad is not particularly detailed, but it can be a great source of encouragement as you work on your story. If you want more, however, you may like to consider some other sites.

Scribophile is described as a ‘respectful online writing group made up of writers who improve each other’s work with thoughtful critiques and by sharing their writing experience’. You can post two pieces of your work at any one time using a free Scribophile account. A paid account provides additional benefits and lets you post unlimited works. The site also has forums where you can discuss particular issues, as well as subject-specific writing groups. There’s also a writing academy and writing blog. Users earn ‘karma’ points by posting critiques of others’ work and having those critiques reacted to and ‘liked’. The longer the critique and the work being critiqued the more karma points you earn. You can then offer those karma points for critiques of your own work that you post to the site. New members have their work put in the ‘spotlight’, which means critiquers can earn more points by critiquing you. Members who critique a lot will also have their work spotlighted for critiques. The critiques in Scribophile are generally far more detailed than wattpad, with contributors discussing a range of issues and often suggesting options for improvement.

Review Fuse, which is also free, allows you to upload one work at a time. You must review assigned works from others before you can upload another piece of work. Review work is assigned based on your reading preferences.

Critique Circle operates in a similar fashion to Scribophile, with a similar level of detailed critiquing, although the website interface is a little more antiquated.

The Next Big Writer offers a similar service, although there’s no free membership option.

Of course if you don’t want to read other people’s work, but just want some feedback on your own, some writers’ centres run one-on-one manuscript assessment sessions, or longer-term mentorship programs. Alternatively, there are various ‘beta reader’ sites you can try.

The Goodreads beta reader forum (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/50920-beta-reader-group) lets authors find beta readers for their work.

Other such options include http://betafinders.tumblr.com and https://www.fictionpress.com. The Absolute Write Water Cooler forum also has a Write 1/ Sub 1 thread where you can solicit other authors to beta-read your manuscript or offer your services as a beta-reader in return.

A good place to start is your local writers’ centre. Here is a list of national and state-based organisations:

Australian Society of Authors: www.asauthors.org
New South Wales Writers’ Centre: www.nswwc.org.au
Australian Writers’ Centre: www.writerscentre.com.au
Queensland Writers Centre: www.qwc.asn.au
Writers Victoria: writersvictoria.org.au
South Australian Writers’ Centre: sawriters.org.au
ACT Writers Centre: www.actwriters.org.au
Tasmanian Writers’ Centre: www.tasmanianwriters.org
Writing WA: www.writingwa.org
Northern Territory Writers’ Centre: www.ntwriters.com.au