How Writing Feedback Can Help You Get Published

Tip #8: Get Feedback Before Submitting a Piece

Top Ten Tips

I encourage you to get feedback from at least one or two people you respect before sending out a piece. At a minimum they can spot typos, but they may also give you valuable comments that will help you craft your piece.

I always show my submissions to at least one person, usually two. I love to get feedback from my sister. She’s not a writer, but she’s my target audience: a middle-aged women with a great sense of humor, smart, honest and easily bored. I can count on her to tell me the truth and that’s critical. What was interesting, funny, boring or confusing? Where did you want more? I tell her she should be a writer, but instead she calls me and says, “You won’t believe what just happened. Do you have pencil?”

Writing is a solitary act, and even if you’re an introvert (like many writers I know), you’ll probably enjoy gathering with other writers. You can find them in a writing class, at conferences, even in online posts looking for people to join writing groups.

It’s great if you can find a writing buddy with whom to exchange work. Choose someone who writes at the same level as you or better, someone whose feedback you’d appreciate. You may agree or not with the comments — just incorporate the ones that make sense to you.

Writers who want to get their work published sometimes work with a writing coach. A coach can give you professional feedback and suggestions on how to craft a piece to appeal to various publications or how to shape a book manuscript.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Tips on Writing

According to Kurt Vonnegut, author of novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” there are only eight tips you need to craft a good short story.

These tips, which originally appeared in his 1999 book, “Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction,” were made into a YouTube video last year and popped up again this month on The Atlantic Monthly’s website, theatlantic.com.

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.