How To Get Good Feedback
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Post your draft in the sandbox, then ask for help on IRC or in the drafts and critiques forum.

LOL, can you imagine if that was the whole essay? I mean, that's useful information, for sure. But I'm writing this with the assumption that you have that down pat, and just aren't getting as much out of the process as you want to.

This guide is geared towards giving you some strategies for getting the most out of the venues available to you when you're getting writing help. It's also geared mostly towards getting reviews on full drafts, since getting feedback on ideas is a different beast altogether.

You won't always be able to implement these right away, either because they take a lot of time to set up or because you're still developing the requisite skills. That's okay — any attempt is better than no attempt.

Prep work

The easier it is to review your draft, the more likely people are to do it, and drafts that have fewer problems are easier to review. Before you post something and ask for feedback, check for errors (spelling, grammar, tone, dialogue, etc.), do the requisite background research,1 and generally try to make it the best it can be — essentially, be your own first critic. This generally requires some skill at writing and critiquing, but those are useful skills anyways.

Of course, you won't be able to fix every problem yourself, but you should at least try to identify as many concerns as possible. Then, when you share the draft, make a point of mentioning what you need help with — if a reviewer can limit their scope to a few issues, that also makes it easier for them. The more detailed, the better — "I need help with the dialogue" is less useful to a reviewer than "I'm not sure that the dialogue sounds natural".

Identifying and fixing problems in your draft, in addition to narrowing the scope for the reviewer, signals two things that reviewers like to know:

  1. You're competent enough at writing that, if you're given advice, there's a good chance that you can implement it.
  2. You care about making your draft the best it can be, and view the process of getting feedback as more than a formality.

Advertising

Most people who visit the site prefer to spend their limited time reading articles they have reason to believe are good, and asking for review on an article is a tacit admission that it's not quite good enough yet. Some people will read it anyways just because they're nice, but it always helps if you can convince people it will be worth their time.

Making your draft interesting to read will not be covered in this guide, but what's actually important is making it SOUND interesting to read.

The best way to do this is to write one true sentence about your draft that encapsulates the gist of the article and evokes the emotion you're looking for. For example, when trying to get people to read SCP-3022, I described it as a "bathroom-centric Thaumiel", firstly because that's what it is, and second because it's a weird sentence that makes people say "Huh?" — also something I was going for with the article. For something like SCP-2420, one might call it "a story about a man, his dog, and coping with loss". Because that's what it is, and because you can tell right away what sort of article it's gonna be.

If you can't sum up your draft's gist in a sentence, or you're not sure what emotional response you're trying to evoke, you probably need to flesh out the concept more before writing the draft.

When advertising your draft, it's important to distinguish yourself from everyone else who wants help with their draft so you can catch a reviewer's attention. This means leaving out redundant information and empty sentences that don't say anything about the draft in question, save perhaps a message of thanks to cap off your post.

Here's an example of what you should NOT do when hyping your draft. Please respect this user's privacy! Do not attempt to find the original post.


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The chief problem here is that there's no attempt to describe the draft in question. No title, no description. "SCP-XXXX" literally does not carry any information, never put that in the title. "for review prior to posting" is self-evident from the fact that it's a sandbox linked in the Drafts and Critiques forum. For the thread summary, "Draft of my rewritten SCP" might work if there was any mention of what it's a rewrite of — anyone who had read the original would immediately know what they're getting into.

This feedback request is better. Please respect this user's privacy! Do not attempt to find the original post.


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The title immediately describes the premise of the article, and has a chance to bring in viewers. The summary doesn't help it out — the first part isn't really relevant to the draft at hand (glad to have you around though!), and in general, people do not change the tenor of their feedback based on how vicious you support them being. The description in the post is very good — a potential reviewer knows that, if nothing else, they can help out just by saying how they felt it handled the backstory reveal.

Here's another good review request. Please respect this user's privacy! Do not attempt to find the original post.


review4.png


The thread title could stand to be a bit more specific, but it does convey that this is anomaly documentation as a hospital might do it. The thread summary shores it up by highlighting the piece's experimental nature, the basic idea's good reception, and soliciting a specific type of feedback. The description, by going into details about the inspiration behind the article, gives reviewers something to work with if they recommend that the author take a different approach.

Being picky

The ability to evaluate feedback and decide how to implement it is a skill that develops alongside your overall writing skill, but this guide can still give you some tips. Generally, it's helpful to be familiar with various site members and their bodies of work, but in a pinch you can look at their author page to see their works, or their Wikidot profile to see their posts.

Here are some good reasons to take a piece of criticism with a grain of salt:

  • It violates the Criticism Policy, or seriously goes against its guidelines. You should actually consider reporting this to a staff member if it happens.
  • It amounts to "You did something unusual, and you should do it the normal way instead" when you did, in fact, have a good reason for doing it the unusual way.
  • It displays a basic misunderstanding of the article or its subject matter.
  • It's telling you how the article should be written, but the critic has no positively rated articles to their name.
  • The critic is attempting to address an issue that you don't think their own writing reflects a strong grasp of.
  • The critic is giving a subjective opinion about your article's quality, but you often disagree with the critic about which articles are good.
  • It isn't accompanied by any sort of explanation of why you should do what's being suggested.
  • Multiple other users disagree with the criticism.

Here are some good reasons to take a piece of criticism seriously:

  • Anyone, even a total newbie, is telling you their subjective emotional response(s) to your article.
  • It points out objective errors, such as typos and formatting issues.
  • It is very insistent that you should not write about this subject matter, or that you are handling the subject matter poorly.
  • You think highly of the critic's grasp on the topic(s) they're advising you on, especially if it's about a real field of study in which they are an expert.
  • The critic is giving a subjective opinion about your article's quality, and you often agree with the critic about which articles are good.
  • Solid justification, either in- or out-of-universe, is provided for the suggestion, especially if good examples are cited.
  • If they dislike the direction you've taken the draft, they've offered one or more (good) alternative directions to take it.
  • Multiple other users agree with the criticism.

Ultimately, there's no objective way of telling how good a piece of criticism is — some comments, or even some specific pieces of advice, will have traits from both of those lists at once. You'll have to decide for yourself whether addressing it will make your article better.

If you find you're getting a lot of criticism that seems less-than-useful because the people doing so don't get your article or seem to disagree with its premise, that can be a sign that your article isn't getting your point across. If this happens, you should explicitly state what you're trying to convey with the piece — at the very least, once it's explicit, they can either advise you on making it clearer, dissuade you from that course of action altogether, or agree to disagree.

Sometimes you will get a piece of criticism that seems worth addressing, but doesn't give you an idea of how to change your article to do so. In this case, you can either ask the critic for more advice, or wait for feedback from others to contextualize it for you.

Social engineering

People who remember you and have a positive opinion of you are somewhat more likely to look over your draft, even if you're not formally acquainted. You can increase the odds here by staying engaged with the community — posting in the forums regularly, posting in the chat, being generally pleasant to have around, and offering good feedback. You should also get a custom Wikidot avatar, if you haven't already — those of us who are visual learners will remember an icon better than a username.

The other part of social engineering is to get exposure for your draft without being obnoxious about it. Methods vary by venue.

In the forums, people will find your draft either through the drafts subforum or through Recent Forum Posts. Maximize visibility while following the rules and being non-obnoxious by responding to every post someone else makes in your thread (except for staff posts).

Whatever the particular content, you should always strive to stay respectful and engage in good faith with the post (so long the reviewer isn't being disingenuous, of course). If there's any information at all that you want from the reviewer, make sure to ask them! It gets you better feedback and gives you an excuse to bump the thread.

If at all possible, you should make whichever changes the feedback suggests you should, and then announce that you've done so — this lets anyone seeing the thread know that you're committed to incorporating feedback into your work. Also, if you make major changes based on someone's post, it's fine to ask them to look over those changes.

If there's a response to your draft thread on the front page of Recent Forum Posts, don't bother responding to your draft thread. Staggering out replies means more people will see your thread, which is more valuable than fewer people seeing it more often.

Generally, the only time it's okay to respond to your own thread as a whole (i.e. NOT to a specific commenter) is when you're announcing major changes that might make it worthwhile for people to take another look. Naturally, you should take advantage of this opportunity whenever it comes up.

In the chat, a link to your draft could either stay on everyone's screens for an hour or disappear within minutes, and it's a crapshoot as to whether someone will see your draft on the backscroll. It's still valuable, though, because it makes a two-way conversation about your draft a lot easier for everyone involved. A good time to link your draft is when the chat is active, but not going incredibly fast; that said, there's not really a downside to linking it at any other time either.

A few exceptions apply — don't post your draft more than once every twenty minutes (when I asked chat ops to give me an acceptable interval, that's what they gave me). Probably wait at least a half hour between postings, just to stay on the safe side. Don't interrupt Serious Business discussions, and don't post your draft while someone else has yet to receive feedback on their own. Follow all other rules outlined in the chat guide, naturally.

If you and someone else are both looking for draft feedback at the same time, it's a good idea to suggest a draft trade, wherein you agree to provide each other feedback. It's pretty rare for people to turn down these offers, so they're reliable, but you naturally have to be prepared to give them feedback in return.

Try to avoid just copy-pasting the same draft pitch every time you link your draft — people will become accustomed to it and ignore it. Mix things up a little bit.

On Reddit, don't post your draft. They suck at giving feedback and have no (relevant) standards. It's really not worth your time or theirs. I can't believe I have to tell people not to get SCP crit on Reddit, but apparently I do!

Posting to the site

At any point after you have a draft that contains all of the material you meant for it in some form, you can post your article, even if you intend to make changes. This is permitted by the rules — you can continue to edit articles after they are posted, but staff can delete unfinished works immediately.

Any decent work that hits the site will get several responses within a day, though as the mainsite is not an officially sanctioned venue for soliciting feedback, these comments are not always held to the same standards as posts in the help forums. Many will simply consist of summary judgments of the article as it is.

Unless you believe that your draft is as good as it can be, you should only post your work to the site if you feel that you are no longer getting helpful feedback from other venues. Naturally, some people post for other reasons, but this is the only one I can endorse. At this point the site itself is your best option for improving the draft, and that's where you should go.

There are a few pieces of advice that I can provide for this — firstly, people usually only read an article once, so if you decide to make major changes, you should consider deleting the article, implementing the changes, and then reposting it. Secondly, site members dislike authors explicitly soliciting feedback in the discussion thread for their article, so you should avoid doing that. Third, in the discussion thread, you should try to thank as many people who helped you with the draft as you can remember — it strokes their egos and lets potential future reviewers know that their efforts will be remembered.

Closing notes

Nothing in this essay will guarantee that you get feedback. This essay does not give you a surefire way to sort out the good critique from the bad critique. Getting and implementing good critique will not ensure that your article is good or well-received. These all come down to chance, writing skill, and good judgment. All this essay offers is various strategies, backed up by years of community participation and analysis, designed to let you make the most of your talent, wisdom, and luck.

This essay was made in the spirit of putting tools in the hands of people who can use them to produce good writing. If you think someone could benefit from the advice I give here, feel free to link, quote, or plagiarize it as you deem appropriate. Likewise, if you have any suggestions for improving it, don't hesitate to leave a comment sharing your thoughts — all input will be taken into consideration.

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