Utilising Feedback: How to Take Criticism and Improve Your Writing

Utilising Feedback: How to Take Criticism and Improve Your Writing

Feedback is an essential component of the writing process. Whether you’re an aspiring novelist or a seasoned journalist, feedback helps you grow as a writer and refine your craft. In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of seeking and incorporating feedback, how to handle criticism, and how feedback influences the writing process. Additionally, using feedback effectively can significantly improve your future assignments by identifying strengths and weaknesses.

The Importance of Feedback in Writing

Feedback is a valuable resource for writers. It offers insights into how others perceive your work and highlights areas for improvement. Receiving feedback helps identify strengths and weaknesses in your writing, enabling you to enhance your skills and produce better work.

Stephen King, one of the most prolific writers of our time, emphasises the importance of feedback in his book On Writing. He advises writers to seek feedback from trusted readers who can provide honest and constructive criticism. By embracing feedback, writers can gain a clearer understanding of their writing goals and make informed decisions about their work.

The Writing Process: Incorporating Feedback

The writing process involves several stages, each of which can benefit from feedback. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Drafting: During the initial drafting stage, focus on getting your ideas down on paper. Don’t worry about perfection; instead, concentrate on conveying your message. Seeking feedback at this stage can help you refine your ideas and ensure your writing is clear and coherent.
  2. Revising: Revision is where feedback plays a crucial role. Constructive feedback from peers or editors can help you identify areas that need improvement. Look for recurring themes in the feedback received, such as issues with grammar, structure, or clarity. This will guide your revisions and help you produce a polished piece.
  3. Editing: In the editing stage, feedback becomes even more critical. A fresh pair of eyes can spot mistakes and inconsistencies you might have missed. Feedback on grammar, punctuation, and style can elevate the quality of your writing.
  4. Final Review: Before submitting or publishing your work, seek feedback one last time. This ensures that your writing is as strong as possible and free of errors.

How to Seek and Receive Feedback

Seeking feedback is an essential part of improving your writing. Here are some strategies to effectively seek and receive feedback:

  1. Choose the Right People: Select individuals who are knowledgeable about writing and can provide constructive feedback. This could be fellow writers, editors, or writing groups.
  2. Ask Specific Questions: When seeking feedback, ask specific questions about your work. For example, you might ask about the clarity of your argument, the strength of your characters, or the effectiveness of your dialogue.
  3. Be Open-Minded: Approach feedback with an open mind. Remember that constructive criticism is aimed at helping you improve, not at attacking your personal taste or style.
  4. Identify Patterns: Pay attention to feedback that identifies patterns in your writing. If multiple readers point out the same issues, it’s likely that these are areas you need to work on. Identifying patterns in feedback can guide you in making continuous improvements and adjustments to your writing.
  5. Reflect and Implement: Take time to reflect on the feedback received. Identify actionable steps you can take to incorporate feedback into your revisions. This might involve rewriting sections, clarifying points, or addressing weaknesses.

Handling Criticism: Turning Negative Feedback into Positive Change

Criticism can be challenging to handle, but it’s an integral part of the writing process. Here’s how to take criticism on your writing and use it to your advantage:

  1. Separate Personal from Professional: Understand that criticism of your writing is not a personal attack. It’s aimed at helping you grow as a writer. Maintain a professional attitude and focus on the constructive aspects of the feedback.
  2. Look for Constructive Elements: Not all criticism is created equal. Seek out constructive criticism that provides specific examples and suggestions for improvement. This type of feedback is more valuable than vague or overly negative comments.
  3. Embrace Criticism: Embrace feedback as an opportunity to improve your writing skills. Use it to identify areas where you can enhance your work and make positive changes.
  4. Stay Positive: Focus on the positive aspects of the feedback. Recognise your strengths and build on them while addressing your weaknesses. Positive feedback can boost your confidence and motivate you to keep improving.

The Role of Feedback in Different Writing Stages

Feedback influences the writing process at various stages. Here’s how it impacts each stage:

  1. Idea Generation: Feedback can help you refine your ideas before you start writing. Discussing your concepts with others can provide new perspectives and enhance your original ideas.
  2. Drafting: Early feedback can help you shape your narrative and structure. It ensures that your writing is on the right track from the beginning.
  3. Revising: This stage benefits the most from feedback. Constructive criticism helps you identify areas for improvement and make necessary revisions.
  4. Editing: Feedback at this stage ensures that your work is polished and free of errors. It’s the final step before your writing is ready for submission or publication.

Strategies for Giving and Receiving Constructive Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback is a two-way street. Here are some strategies to ensure that feedback is constructive and helpful:

  1. Be Specific: When giving feedback, be specific about what works and what doesn’t. Use specific examples to illustrate your points.
  2. Be Constructive: Focus on providing suggestions for improvement rather than just pointing out flaws. Constructive feedback should help the writer improve their work.
  3. Be Respectful: Always approach feedback with respect and empathy. Remember that writing is a personal and often vulnerable process.
  4. Be Honest: Provide honest feedback, even if it’s critical. Honest feedback is essential for growth and improvement.
  5. Be Balanced: Offer a balance of positive and negative feedback. Highlighting strengths can motivate the writer to keep improving.

How Feedback Influences the Writing Process

Feedback is a crucial part of the writing process. It helps writers identify their strengths and weaknesses, refine their ideas, and improve their writing skills. Here’s how feedback influences the writing process:

  1. Improves Quality: Feedback helps writers identify areas for improvement, resulting in higher quality writing.
  2. Enhances Clarity: Constructive criticism can help writers clarify their ideas and ensure their message is clear.
  3. Builds Confidence: Positive feedback boosts confidence and encourages writers to keep improving.
  4. Fosters Growth: Feedback provides valuable insights that help writers grow and develop their skills.
  5. Encourages Reflection: Receiving feedback encourages writers to reflect on their work and identify areas for improvement.

Personal Experiences with Feedback

Drawing from my own experiences, I’ve found that feedback has been instrumental in my growth as a writer. In my early writing days, I often felt defensive about criticism, viewing it as a personal attack. Over time, I learned to embrace feedback and see it as an opportunity to improve my writing skills.

For instance, I once received feedback that my dialogue was stilted and unnatural. Initially, I was discouraged, but I decided to focus on this specific area. I read books on dialogue writing, analysed dialogue in films and books, and practiced writing more conversational dialogue. This feedback helped me improve significantly and made my characters more relatable and engaging.

Tips for Incorporating Feedback

Incorporating feedback into your writing can be challenging, but it’s essential for growth. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the feedback you receive:

  1. Create a Feedback Plan: After receiving feedback, create a plan to address the suggestions. Prioritise the most critical issues and tackle them one by one.
  2. Break Down Feedback: Break down the feedback into manageable chunks. This makes it easier to address each point without feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Revise and Rewrite: Be prepared to revise and rewrite sections of your work based on the feedback. This may involve significant changes, but it will ultimately improve your writing.
  4. Seek Clarification: If you’re unsure about any feedback, seek clarification from the person who provided it. Understanding their perspective can help you make better revisions.
  5. Reflect on Feedback: Take time to reflect on the feedback and how it aligns with your writing goals. Use it as a guide to make informed decisions about your revisions.

Embracing Feedback: A Path to Becoming a Better Writer

Embracing feedback is key to becoming a better writer. Here are some final thoughts on how to make the most of feedback:

  1. Keep an Open Mind: Approach feedback with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Remember that every piece of feedback is an opportunity for improvement.
  2. Be Patient: Improvement takes time. Be patient with yourself and the process.
  3. Stay Positive: Focus on the positive aspects of feedback and use them to motivate yourself.
  4. Continue Learning: Writing is a lifelong learning process. Continue seeking feedback and learning from it to keep improving your skills.
  5. Celebrate Progress: Celebrate your progress and the improvements you make along the way. Recognise that each step forward is a step toward becoming a better writer.


Feedback is an essential part of the writing process. By seeking and embracing constructive criticism, writers can improve their skills, refine their ideas, and produce higher quality work. Remember to approach feedback with an open mind, be specific in your questions, and reflect on the insights you receive. Whether you’re receiving feedback from peers, editors, or writing groups, use it as a valuable resource to guide your revisions and enhance your writing. With patience and perseverance, you can turn feedback into a powerful tool for growth and improvement in your writing journey.

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