Prince On Giving Feedback To Writers

I’ve been away from my writer’s group for about a month and a half because I was in rehearsal for what’s been called my “kick-ass” “don’t miss” play (which I won’t mention is currently running at the Exit — and SOLD OUT again tonight — because this post is not about that).

But now that I’m heading back to writer’s group, this is perfect timing: Prince Gomolvilas, guest posting on Parabasis a few days back, on his approach to giving playwrights feedback. Which is distinctly different from my group’s approach of saying we should start with the positive but then cutting right to the negative.

I kid, I kid. We are actually pretty good at starting by asking what the playwright wants to accomplish and attempting to keep our own biases out of our criticism. Still, it would probably be good for us all to read Prince’s article, especially this part:

My rule of thumb is, if it’s finished, then we can give complete and all-encompassing feedback. If it’s not finished, if it’s still a work-in-progress, if we’re seeing just parts of the whole, then we have to reframe the way we generate and give feedback….

What we would like to see in a piece is not necessarily what the writer would like to see in a piece. Our aim is to help writers develop their work in accordance with what he/she would like to see in his/her own work….

With all this in mind, these are the rules for discussing works-in-progress. Answer only the following questions:

1.) What did you like about the piece? (“I liked the monologue on page three,” “I liked the way the main character handled the situation,” etc.) This overlaps with #2:

2.) What things that are already in the piece would you like to see more of in the piece? In other words, what parts can be expanded for your enjoyment and/or understanding? (“I think the mother’s dark sense of humor is really intriguing, and I would like to see more of that….”)

3.) What confused you or what didn’t you understand about the piece? This includes perceived technical/logistical problems. (…”One of your characters looks out at the sun and comments on it, but earlier in the piece someone says it’s midnight,” etc.)

It’s much longer and well-worth-reading. As is Bamboo Nation, Prince’s blog. But you probably already know that; he has about a zillion adoring readers.


2 Replies to “Prince On Giving Feedback To Writers”

  1. I’m a big believer in trying to frame my feedback as questions and asking others to do the same for me. I find that questions remove that bias and help with the “what confused you / needs clarification” part of feedback.

    And yes, always do what Prince tells you.

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