How to Give and Receive Feedback in Writing Groups

Updated on July 25, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I teach creative writing to adults and love helping my students improve their writing skills.

A relaxed and informal group helps people contribute honest feedback.
A relaxed and informal group helps people contribute honest feedback. | Source

How to Give Positive and Negative Feedback on Creative Writing

  1. Make your comments specific.
  2. Use the STAR method to comment.
  3. Be prepared to accept criticism yourself.
  4. Be fair and balanced in your comments.
  5. Keep emotion out of the equation.
  6. Be generous with compliments.

1. Make Your Feedback Specific

It’s easy to waffle and fudge around an issue. You see something amiss with your friend’s creative writing piece but you don’t want to crush her confidence. You “um” and “err” and then give some very general comments that are of no practical use to her at all. This is where a good facilitator at a writer’s group can really show their value.

Facilitating a writing group is not an easy role. Not everyone has the required skill set. You need to be relaxed and friendly and able to get to the specifics of the criticism. You should be able to tease out the nub of the issue raised in a non-threatening manner.

Specific is good; generalizations are bad!

2. Use the STAR Method

STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. It’s a useful way to describe what has happened and what you would like to happen in any situation. In the context of giving feedback to other writers on their work, here is an example of how you could use it.


“I found the first chapter very difficult to follow as there were so many new characters being introduced every few lines.”


“The action in the opening chapter needs to be made more focused and easier to follow.”


“Perhaps you could concentrate on the action of a few key characters and introduce others in the next chapter?”


“This would result in a much clearer narrative and I would be more engaged in the story.”

3. Be Prepared to Accept Criticism Yourself

If you’re unwilling to take feedback on your own writing, then you shouldn’t be willing to censure others. As the saying goes “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. I recommend "The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback" It's an excellent book by Becky Levine with lots of hints and tips on how to make a writer's group critique session go well.

A writing group can be a helpful supportive way to learn from others. Both giving and receiving constructive criticism will help improve your writing skills. A good writer is not only a wordsmith, but also a good listener and avid reader. These are the skills you will use to good effect in a writer’s group discussion.

Discussing your work with other like-minded individuals helps you improve.
Discussing your work with other like-minded individuals helps you improve. | Source

4. Be Fair and Balanced in Your Comments

OK, so none of us are saints. Remember that comments you make may be taken to heart by your fellow writer. Don’t make wild accusations such as “you always do such and such in your stories”. Focus on the one chapter or page you’ve been asked to comment on. Balance a negative comment with a positive one. Try and make the positive comments outnumber the negatives, whilst trying not to over-sugar the pill.

What is Constructive Feedback?

Constructive feedback is specific, focused, and based on objective observation. It is different from comments that give praise and/or criticise.

Praise and criticism are personal subjective judgments. They are comments about a performance effort or outcome. Praise is a favorable judgment. Criticism is a negative or unfavorable comment.

5. Keep Emotion Out of the Equation

If you feel your heart start to race or the pitch of your voice go higher you are becoming too emotional. Constructive criticism should take place when both parties, giver and receiver, are calm and receptive. A facilitator can intervene if they see an interaction has become too personal.

It’s amazing how tempers can flare under the influence of alcohol and old rivalries. To maintain a calm and open conversation between all group members, many writing groups decide that “what is said within the group, stays within the group”.

6. Be Generous with Compliments

The rules for giving compliments are virtually the same as those for voicing critical comments. Be specific and be constructive. It’s more meaningful to give a compliment such as “your description of the hero was so vivid I can picture him standing in front of me”, rather than a more general “I love the way you write”.

The Secret to Giving Great Feedback

Improve Your Writing Skills and Make New Friends

Sometimes it is difficult to be self-critical. Reading your script aloud in a writer’s group can help. Constructive feedback from a supportive writing group of authors can work wonders with your writing. Choose a group where you feel comfortable. If there is not one nearby then start one of your own. It’s a great way to network with other writers.

Each writer takes a turn in reading a page out loud from their work in progress. The rest of the group then discusses the passage they have heard. The discussion should focus on what made the story interesting and memorable. You will be amazed at the issues others notice. Treat it as a learning experience and be willing to explain why you wrote the scene the way you did. If you are able to accept constructive criticism your novel writing skills will improve.

You may like to play a creative writing game as an icebreaker. People who learn together may be more open to receiving criticism and help from their fellow students.

How to Find a Writing Group

Some places have a glut of writer’s groups, while others have none. Here are some suggestions on how to find about writers and happenings in your area.

  • Check out the local library for a list of groups in your area.
  • Free newspapers often have advertising for local writing events and new writer’s groups starting up.
  • Universities and colleges nearby may have writing courses or study days that would put you in touch with like-minded people.
  • You could start your own writing group with friends or advertise for new members.

How to Start Your Own Writing Group

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • jamesplee profile image

    James Lee 

    3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

    I miss workshopping my writing from college days. Back then it was as much a lesson in giving as receiving. Sometimes it's rough to get feedback via the internet, but it come with the territory.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 

    3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

    This rational way of giving and receiving feedback on our work sounds useful. Negative feedback is incredibly difficult to swallow when we are attached to our work but it's essential in improving our writing.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    3 years ago from Queensland Australia

    I agree with MsDora. This information was very helpful. I had never heard of the STAR method before but it sounds very useful. Thanks for sharing.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    3 years ago from The Caribbean

    You give very helpful instructions. I especially like your explanation of the STAR method of commenting. You inspire me to find and join a writing group.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)