So you wrote something. Great! Maybe it’s a short story. Maybe it’s a novel. Maybe it’s an epic 300,000-word tome (although if it is, you might have some issues).
It’s always good when you can finish a project, but now what? If you’re like a lot of writers (but not all!) you might want to get your masterpiece published. Hold on a minute, though. If you want to be a pro, you have to look like a pro first, and that means you need to get some feedback.
Feedback is essential to any professional-quality writing. It gives you a heads-up to fix any inconsistencies, plot holes, character problems, or just embarrassing typos along the way. You may have a great story, but fiction is a massive buyers’ market, and any one of those things makes you more likely to be immediately rejected.
So get some feedback to sniff out the problems. Probably, the first person you’ll want feedback from is yourself. Set your piece aside for a while, then re-read it. You’ll be surprised how many problems you find. It may seem like the first draft was terrible, but press on. That shows you how much better it could be the second time around.
After you’ve done all your revisions and made your piece about as good as you can on your own, it’s time to start asking other people to help. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might even ask them before you revise it, but remember that you are probably the person you are most comfortable with being critical of your work. Make sure you’re ready before you put it in someone else’s hands.
Who should you ask for feedback? If you’re in a writing group, try taking it there first. You won’t be guaranteed to get any readers (after all, writers are always busy with writing, if nothing else), but it’s a good place to start, and they’re usually pretty good at it. Next, you can try politely asking friends and family members who are interested in the kind of things you write and who you can trust to give honest feedback. It’s good to have some non-writers take a look, since they make up most of your audience.
Finally, if at all possible, you should send your work to several people for feed back, because everyone who reads it will look at it differently and see different things–sometimes very different. Here’s an example: I once sent a short story to two friends to read. The first once thought it was amazingly good, while the second one thought it was amazingly bad. After she pointed out the glaring flaws in the plot, I realized that my second friend was right. That’s not to say that my first friend was wrong–after reworking the plot, I got much better reviews, but it did need some serious reworking.
And remember, even if you’re waiting for feedback, keep writing!