Let Feedback Ring
Don't be shy, just use hashtags.
Criticism. Rejection. Feedback.
The holy trinity of a writer's worst nightmare. No wonder we use pen names.
Gabino's thoughts ring true for short stories and Vocal articles as well; basically, anything that comes from an author's inner world is close to our heart. Sometimes, sharing your work with the public feels like walking into a room naked. But, like, not just naked, covered in warts with a bad haircut, and the audience is your former high school classmates kind of naked.
#writerslife, am I right?
I'm sure I'm not the only one who was beginning to feel like genuine, honest feedback had gone by the wayside among our Vocal peers — with some groups going so far as to strangle it using group rules! Eek!! How do we know what to do?!
While it's certainly appreciated to receive words of praise, when you later look over your work for quick-edits the thousandth time after submitting it to a challenge, (I can't be the only weirdo that does this), and you spot like 5 typos, 3 "justs" in the same paragraph, a dozen missing commas and an undisclosed amount of ridiculous adverbs, you have to stop and wonder why no one felt like they could tell you.
Lately, I turn to three trusted allies, Madoka Mori, Dane BH and Caroline Jane when I want an in my face "tell me what fails" kind of critique. When I mentioned they were my trio of special critics, Madoka made me a meme:
After momentarily cringing over the harsh accuracy of it, I realized wow, wouldn't it be great if we all felt confident enough to say these things to one another?
We've been testing the Iron Maiden in Great Incantations lately with great success.
The privacy of the space means I'm not going to list anyone as an example. Privacy is everything to an author when learning about their mistakes.
But... each writer views that privacy standard a little differently. For some, it's enough that it's pointed out behind closed doors with their peers in the comment section of their release in Great Incantations; for others, they would really rather be DM'd. And there is also the category of folks who, whether it's for a piece that feels like a piece of their soul, or any other reason, doesn't want anything pointed out at all — simply sharing is enough for their comfort zone.
So, all of those thoughts and opinions make for quite an alphabet soup! And as every therapist will advise you, don't try to read someone's mind. It makes for a mess of communication that hurts all parties' feelings.
Great Incantations admins and experts take our responsibilities seriously when it comes to organizing a welcoming space full of healthy discourse for fellow challenge entrants. Challenges, especially, drive us to improve our work. I know I'm not the only one feeling driven to improve in order to stay competitive. The way I see it, Vocal's expanding reach has brought in some heavy-hitters of late and sitting on the sidelines complaining about it doesn't do your work any good.
With all of this in mind, we've developed a simple strategy to improve everyone's experiences.
To get the ball rolling we've created some specific ones.
1. #feedback requested
Directly in the FB comment thread you may point out typos, state what you liked and disliked, & offer suggestions. Please try the build-break-build approach where you include some positives along with the negatives.
Unclear what build-break-build means? There's an article for that from someone who was the master of the technique and whose presence will be forever missed.
For whatever reason, this means the author would prefer you NOT to point out flaws publicly in their comments, possibly nothing at all and most definitely not on Vocal. Egad!!
This author would prefer to keep to the fun rather than focus on improvements.
After a recent discussion, many of us have noted we'd rather all negatives be kept behind closed doors, but that's another topic for another day. Thank goodness the authors involved were brave enough to be open about their perspectives and motivations! Still amazed and proud of them both.
Try to be honest in your feedback when this hashtag is present, but keep it very lighthearted. Let things slide. Maybe try a DM if it feels super important to point out, but ask in the comments first.
This author WANTS, greatly wants to have comments given regarding the flaws in the piece. Comment at will, and save everyone’s time by being blunt. No offense will be taken if you forget to include a positive. But, as always, keep it constructive. Saying it’s badly done doesn’t help. Saying you noticed a lot of missing commas and their locations might.
Other Useful Tags...
If the material is graphic, extremely personal or otherwise something we should know sets it apart, feel free to add this so that readers know how to approach their comments to you or whether to read the piece at all. Trigger warnings always welcome.
We encourage read swapping. This means leaving a comment that shows you read their work and then leaving yours to have the favour returned. However, sometimes life gets in the way. If you know you can’t reciprocate, let us know so we can read the piece for leisure rather than collaboration. And folks, if you see this one, try and make a little time for it. I'm sure placing it there was a difficult decision and down the road they will return the favour.
6. #DMs OK #NO DMs
Some folks do not want their inbox used by anyone besides their linked friends; some folks are open to messages. If it matters to you, add the hashtag. If you've never messaged that person before and there is no hashtag, leave an offer to DM in their comments section first.
7. Challenge Title
This one is straightforward. Adding the tag means other authors looking to read-swap can easily bounce from piece to piece. Not that read swapping is ever limited to challenge to identical challenge, but it's always helpful to see others' interpretations of the same prompt for future growth.
Ultimately, I believe the Vocal community that comes together off-site is a stellar set of folks. They will often double comment just so your piece has some good stuff at the bottom in public, too.
It's astounding how many connections I've made since joining last summer for #Doomsday. Vocal comments have been a recent blessing to us all, as we can now meet and greet and use the platform to network even better than before. It's a pleasure to be among my fellow Vocal authors.
Lastly, many of you have asked why the two remaining founding admins, myself and Caroline Jane, continue to put our time and effort into creating and expanding new products for the Vocal community, despite being neither part of Vocal's staff nor receiving any compensation beyond your friendship.
The last word says it all: friendship. Time and again, I read of authors like us who stumbled on Vocal through some tough times. This platform isn't just another place to get paid to us. Vocal is a home. And while, like everyone else, we branch out from time to time among other writing avenues, or retreat to lick our wounds after a challenge loss, Vocal will always be our first port in the storm.
Because writing is hard. And that's not just in the sense of academics.
When the going gets tough, go where you're among friends.
Much love all,
See you in the comments section and off-base on FB.
Special thanks to the folks who maintain the day to day scheduling in VSS you know and love! Pam, Lena, Bill, Mike & Eric: you're gems! As well as the host of group experts and moderators in each group. Your time and care is invaluable to your community.
What did we miss? Can you think of another useful hashtag? Let us know in the comments below and then come on over and test it out!
About the author
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Niche topic & fresh perspectives