As I might have mentioned previously, I’m in a workshop class at the moment for short fiction. It’s great, a wonderful way to refine and perfect one’s writing. But, you get MASSIVE amounts of conflicting feedback of various levels of helpfulness. This is my new-found method for cutting through that to the useful stuff.
1. Think about what you actually were trying to say, even if you didn’t know it while writing. If you are in a workshopping class, taking notes during the workshop helps with this.
2. Try to separate out the feedback from people who seem to really understand what you were doing in your story and those who obviously didn’t get it. This might be hard, and you may need a third pile for those you can’t categorize, but this is an important step.
3. Take the ones that didn’t get your story. Try not to get upset when they say stupid things. Look for things that anyone could have caught, like awkward phrasing or missing punctuation. Take the rest of it with a grain of salt. The tips from the other readers might help clarify things for this group of readers.
4. Take the ones who sort of got it and thumb through them. They might have some real nuggets, and these are the people who are close to grasping, but not quite there yet. Their suggestions, even if not in and of themselves what you need to do, can be really helpful in figuring out where to start, what’s missing, what’s not coming through.
5. Take the ones who understood your story. Their feedback will be invaluable. They’ll know what you’re doing right, and thereby they’re also the most likely to pinpoint where you’ve gone wrong. Spend a lot of time evaluating these ones, and take it to heart. THIS is your audience, remember. If they’re not getting something, the vast majority of people aren’t going to get it, either.
6. Edit. Revise. Start the whole process all over again.