In a previous post, I talked about giving back and various ways to do that. From some of the comments on that post, it seems that giving reader reviews or providing constructive feedback on a friend or fellow writer’s work was the most popular method for giving back.
I must say, I struggle with this. Though it’s important to give honest feedback, sometimes trying to give feedback to a close friend or family member is difficult because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or crush their dream. It’s all too easy to imagine them giving up because you didn’t give them a rave review (or really, a “friend review.”)
However, I’ve also been on the other side of the “friend review.” Though I feel lucky that friends and family read and offer opinions on my work, being on the receiving end of that all-encompassing, “It’s great!” isn’t helpful. In fact, it can be misleading, especially if the story needs to be tightened up for contextual reasons or sections needs to a little livening up to keep the reader interested. When I receive those kinds of “friend reviews” I have to remember to take them with a grain of salt. I take the compliment to my work, but remember that the reader is seeing through friend-colored glasses.
On my last book, I was really lucky to have a friend reviewer who takes her literature very seriously. It was the first time I’d really had someone review my work through the eyes of an editor or literary agent. She pointed out context issues, grammar mistakes, and places where the story lost traction. It was wonderful!
Now that I’ve experienced what it’s like to receive a real review, I know that I can’t give those watery “friend reviews” to other writers anymore. Friend reviews are not really giving back because they don’t help your friend improve his/her writing. Though it will take more of your time and focus, to truly give back to your writer friends, it’s worth it to provide a real review, constructive criticism and all.