Writing Strategy #4 – Ask for Specific Feedback for Sample Chapters

Every week, The Adventurous Writer features a writing strategy from Quips & Tips for Successful Writers. This week, the strategy is about asking for specific feedback for sample chapters.

I submitted my three sample chapters to my agent last week, who delivered them to a potential publisher (my fingers and toes are crossed! See Writing Strategy #3 – Write for One Hour for details). Part of my editing process included showing my sample chapters to my writer’s group. Their feedback resulted in more work…and sample chapters that flowed.

Writer’s groups can be an effective way to improve your writing.

But don’t just plop your novel into the laps of your fellow writers. Instead, ask for specific feedback for whatever you’re showing to your writer’s group, whether it’s sample chapters, book proposals, query letters, or even blog posts. Don’t just ask, “How can I make it better?” Ask your reviewers to look for specific literary techniques or organizational problems.


Specific things to ask your writer’s group to look for:

  • Wordiness, run on sentences, sentence fragments
  • Redundancies, such as she put her hat on her head (“on her head” is unnecessary)
  • Passive voice
  • Weak verbs and limp nouns
  • Repetition
  • Poor punctuation
  • Poor grammar
  • Writing that doesn’t flow
  • Clichés, tired similes, blah metaphors; no evidence that you’re writing for publication


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I wouldn’t recommend asking your writer’s group to look for all those writing infractions. You could consider asking your group to look for a couple issues, a bookwork friend to look for a couple more, and your objective sister to weed out even more problems.

But…I also recommend not showing your work to too many readers, especially if they love you. You’ll get conflicting feedback, which can be confusing. And, your readers may affect your voice or style — which is what you don’t want. If you use this writing strategy, do with caution!

I welcome your comments or questions about this or any writing strategy below. And, I’d love to hear your stories of asking for feedback for sample chapters, book proposals or article pitches…how does it work for you?

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6 thoughts on “Writing Strategy #4 – Ask for Specific Feedback for Sample Chapters

  • Laurie PK

    Thanks for including me in your Friday round up — I love being part of your site! How the heck did you get such a huge following?
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post…14 Tips for Successful Magazine Writers =-.

  • Alexis Grant

    I like the idea of asking for specific feedback. But also leave the door open for any and all comments, because then your readers might offer suggestions on things you never thought would need work. Those often end up being the BEST types of feedback.

    Great post here. Thanks!
    .-= Alexis Grant´s last blog post…Writers’ Roundup =-.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Hi Kim,

    I remember reading that if you’re writing a memoir that you’re hoping a publisher picks up, you need to have done something awfully exciting with your life! Or, you need to be a celebrity, politician, or somebody extraordinary in some way. Unfortunately, the general public isn’t interested in reading about everyday people.

    If you have extraordinary experiences and memories to share, I suggest you lead with those! Don’t start out with the ho-hum “I was born on March 27, 1970 in a small town in Saskatchewan on a cold winter’s night…” Instead, convince readers from the get-go that your story is a can’t-miss.

    And finally, I suggest reading up on writing memoirs. I haven’t done alot of reading about that niche.

    Good luck, and let me know how you’re progressing!

    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post…Writing Strategy 4 – Ask for Specific Feedback for Sample Chapters =-.

  • Kim Shannon

    Hi Laurie!
    Any suggestions and or tips for writing a memoir?
    .-= Kim Shannon´s last blog post…And speaking of the walking dead… =-.