Posted on 04/07/2012
by Kandace Mavrick
I really enjoy his work but watching Aaron Sorkin’s new series The Newsroom feels kind of like watching re-runs. Now I’m wondering if you could actually dialogue match a whole episode of the The Newsroom…
Just out of curiosity, who reads your writings to give you feedback?
I don’t really have someone who would do it or know how to give constructive feedback, so my writing would likely end up being insular and self-indulgent.
A few different people. My mother (who is a librarian and reviewer) has always been my first reader. The one I bounce ideas off when they’re still idiotic. And when I was still at university I was lucky enough to have several wonderful supervisors to edit my work. That also put me in contact with a professional author who has read my work and leant me other beta readers on occasion.
Mostly though I use friends for what I’d term a reader-response and Paul (who writes the other half of this website) for a more writerly approach.
You figure out over time who is good at close reading (like noticing your typos) and who is good at structure stuff and who is just going to provide you with an emotional response.
It’s actually very difficult to find people who can give good constructive feedback. Editing is a specialised skill and not one that even all authors even have. It’s a problem with a lot of writer’s groups. Everyone means well, but not everyone had the toolset to actually help.
My best advice would be to give your work to as many people as you can and focus on any comments that you get more than once.
If you’re looking for readers I know there are writer’s groups on facebook/tumblr and so on if you can’t locate one in your area. That’s maybe a good place to start?
Thanks for the info. I would imagine writer’s group to be filled with paranoia, in case someone makes use of another’s key idea for a story =P
How useful is a writing course? Did you actually study writing when you were at uni?
There can be a certain level of paranoia, I guess. But all writing is theft in one way or another. Leaning on the things we learn from what we’ve read. Standing on the shoulders of giants and so on 🙂 Two people writing exactly the same story are never going to produce the same thing, so I don’t think it’s something to worry about.
The usefulness of writing courses really depends on both where you are in your development as a writer and the nature of the course itself. I tend to be of the opinion that you can’t teach writing, per se. But you can definitely teach writing skills. From basic grammar and how to edit to what you need to know to write film scripts to dealing with writer’s block to the very straightforward (yet elusive) ability to take criticism.
I studied writing (among a great many other things) largely because it gave me access to professional level editorial and offered me the opportunity for the first time in my life to prioritise writing over everything else. I really think that practice is THE BEST bar non way to improve your writing. So anything you can do to get the time to do that is worthwhile. (And some people produce much better when they have a hard deadline to meet.)
Haha, all writing is the ‘Tarantino Method’. Take as many ideas from as many different places s possible, mash them all together until something coherent comes out. Of course, coherency is always optional =P
Since I’m a super-amateur beginner, best read the ‘writing for dummies’ book? haha
My recommendation would be to read EVERYTHING. And write, write, write 🙂
Do you use short stories to hone your themes and ideas?
I collected (way back when) a 5-volume series of Philip K. Dick’s short stories, and it was interesting to see his themes and ideas flow through into what became ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Minority Report’, ‘Total Recall’ and a few other lesser-known mopvies.
I don’t, no. But then, I don’t actually write a great deal of short fiction. I think we tend to explore whatever interests (or obsesses) us in what we write whether we realise it or not. Which is why you often find thematic similarities in an author’s work. Generally though there are a multitude of ways to explore the same themes and ideas that such an obsession doesn’t have to be repetitive.
As an aside, I must be a writer at heart. My wife says I repeat myself all the time, and can’t blame dementia for it =P
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