I’m in New Brunswick, NJ—it was a lovely and civilized trip courtesy of Acela, NJ Transit, and Ghuz the cab driver. Tomorrow I will attend the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Plus Conference. Super excited. And a double-plus excitement factor: one of my writing mentors, the awesome Patti Gauch, will be attending as well.
Patti transformed my writing. She is a master teacher, but more importantly she is a fierce proponent of a writer’s imaginative freedom. When I started out writing, I had two goals:
- Write well.
- Write to delight.
It wasn’t until I got to Patti that I started to understand that my first goal—i.e., being super focused on writing and grammar rules—could cause my stories to read more like a pedantic high school senior’s English projects than potent and (deliciously) delightful novels. Patti gave me the needed nuance to understand what writing well for fiction meant. And then once we got that sorted, ever since she has been all about encouraging me to let my quirky-imagination flag fly.
Patti, in direct relevancy to this blog, has also been a sage guide in context of the critique process. Both in how to process feedback—positive and critical—and about how to provide feedback to fellow writers in a kind, generous way that helps them move their stories forward.
So, both in honor of seeing Patti and meeting my fellow RUCCL One-on-One Plus conference attendees (who with me will be courageously deep in the feedback process tomorrow,) I’m excited to share—with Patti’s express permission—her core framework for giving feedback.
The Patti Gauch Most-Awesome Method for Giving Feedback
(I just named it that.)
As you read through someone’s novel or excerpt of a novel, note the following:
- What you loved
- Where you lost interest or zoned out.
- Where you got confused
Why is this simple framework so awesome?
- It allows anyone to provide a critique because it relies on reader reaction instead of writerly prowess. This is absolutely the framework I ask my first readers to use, especially the non-author ones. I don’t want my first readers to feel any pressure that I’m expecting them (a) to solve any story problems on my behalf, or (b) to proofread or line edit the story.
- It gives the author really useful data.
- Why the Loved notes are useful: It is always a boost to see what readers connect to—a turn of phrase, a particular scene, a potent chapter ending, etc. Encouragement is a good thing. Plus, we need to know what is working well so we protect those bits in the revision process. Not to say that something someone loved would never be revised or edited out, but those passages get a special consideration status before being changed or nuked.
- Why the Lost Interest notes are useful: This is usually an indicator that you have gone too long on something: backstory, setting, etc. Or it could be that you have a chapter or scene that doesn’t move the story forward. I’m always on the lookout for this response from my early readers as it means they are inching into the territory of not wanting to turn the page. Which basically for me is a Def Con 1 alert situation for my story.
- Why the Got Confused notes are useful: This likely has to do with a plot issue. Did you not set up a twist effectively? Did you drop in too many names characters at once? Did you go down the rabbit hole of a subplot that doesn’t move the main story forward? Etc.
- Finally, the Lost Interest and Got Confused notes together give a writer what-might-need-to-be-improved data unencumbered by shoulds or if it were me, I woulds. Meaning the writer gets insight into what is potentially not working well and decides for her- or himself how to address it. No muddying of the waters related how someone else thinks the author should fix the story. The power stays with the author.
Framework fantabulousness for sure!
Okay, fine readers, that’s what I’ve got for today. Let me know if you have comments or questions. Definitely let me know if you try out this framework in your critique group or with early readers and how it works for you.
And if you are so moved, send good energy to me and all the attendees at the RUCCL’s conference. Tomorrow is story critique time for each one of us with a to-be-revealed industry professional.
A special note to my mystery-critiquer: thank you in advance for your feedback. Looking forward to meeting you and to hearing your thoughts on my story.
(Oh, the excitement is building!!!)
Onward in kindness,
Christine Carron, The Critique MD