In this step of the “Edit with Love” series, we are looking at how to use artistic language when giving feedback to those who have asked for it. Last time we covered the importance of finding the best parts first and making sure to applaud what is going WELL in any piece of work.
So now, we need to remember (Right? Bueller? Is this thing on?) that we are conversing with fellow artists and writers. It is unhelpful to simply say “I didn’t like this piece of dialogue” or “this doesn’t seem believable.” Okkkkay…? This tells us nothing, gives us nothing, and smacks of “this is shit and I’m too lazy to tell you why.” There is nothing more frustrating than an entire critique of one line responses that give us no place to go except “wow, I really do suck.”
Let’s be less shitty and actually take the time to use the beautiful art form we supposedly are fans of: artistic language. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but we’re looking at ways to expand upon and essentially illustrate our point.
Some examples might be:
“This dialogue doesn’t tell me anything about how Megan is feeling and experiencing this conflict.”
“Maybe this conflict would be more believable with descriptions of her gut tightening, her heart pounding, or other sensory details?”
“I’m having trouble seeing the scene: red rooftops and describing the beautiful flags might give me more visual cues for this parade.”
Here we’ve generated IDEAS. Ways of thinking about the problem in an artistic and often visual way. We’re responding as readers, but as readers who have the gift of also knowing the process of writing. We can tell them what we’re hoping for and what we’re needing, but also posing it in a way that gives the writer someplace to go. The writer will ultimately have to decide how to respond and whether what we want is valid for their story—but we can at least give them fuel for this contemplation, rather than stoking the flames of their self-doubt and eventually, self-loathing.
Keep writing everyone! And be sure to comment and let us know what you've found most helpful in your critiques!