When somebody asks for feedback on writing they have been working on, it can put you on the spot. How can you and the writer end up having a conversation about the writing that you both find stimulating?
Here are some ideas for reading someone’s writing in a way that gets that conversation off the ground.
You will always be able to have a good conversation about one or two pages. Whatever you end up talking about, the writer will keep thinking about it. Somehow, your conversation will help them with all of their writing.
Get a little bit of information
A little bit. Enough to understand the context of what you are reading. It helps to know why the writer has written this. Don’t let the writer explain too much, though. That will only end up confusing you.
Ask the writer for a couple of specific questions for you. Write them down.
Look for sparks as you read
Read slowly. It’s short. Read it twice.
Pay attention to the little things that catch your mind as you read along. It could be a word that surprises you. A little phrase. Something that makes a memory pop into your head. Each time your attention is sparked, put a little ticky-mark in the margin.
After you have finished reading the pages, go back to the places you have marked and lightly underline the words that caused the spark.
Find 5 connections
Make a list of five things in the writing which are somehow connected to your understanding or experience. Write a one-sentence explanation for each one.
Ask 5 questions
Invent five questions based on what you read. They must be questions that you can’t answer. A question can be about anything, as long as it bears some relationship to something in the writing. Write the questions down in a list.
Structure the conversation around the notes you have taken.
- When you sit down with the writer to discuss the writing, begin with the sparks. Read each of the words or phrases you underlined aloud. Read them slowly and deliciously. Make them sound as important and enticing as you can.
- As you explain each of the five connections you made, you will end up talking about why this piece of writing would be interesting to others.
- Then go over the questions you wrote. The writer doesn’t have to know the answers. The answers to the questions might or might not make their way into the writing. The questions will show the writer what their writing makes people wonder about. You will find them interesting to discuss together.
- Finally, return to the writer’s questions. The ones you asked for at the very beginning. Consider the questions together and decide what the answers are. Maybe the writer has other questions now. You can discuss them, too.
If you are a writer who is asking a friend for feedback, here are some ideas for you.