- I asked my friend to read my story and they said yes, but it’s been six months and they haven’t said anything.
- My father said he would read my story, but all he said was, ‘Yeah, I read it.’ That doesn’t tell me anything!
- My mum keeps asking me when I’m going to get a real job instead of playing on my computer in fantasy land. I’m writing content and I get paid for it; it is a job.
- I was really excited because I got a personalised rejection letter, but my friend said my writing must be really bad if they took the time to talk about something specific. They just don’t get it.
- I want my parents to be proud of my writing, but they can’t even be bothered to read it.
Does any of that sound familiar?
I see it all the time on writing groups, particularly from young writers. We’ve all been there in one way, shape or form. We all want our families and friends to be proud of us. We all want them to like what we do. And we all want to share our excitement over our writing with the people closest to us.
The only thing is, none of those people, no matter how close they are to you, are under any obligation to share your passion. Nor are they the best people to give you feedback on your writing.
Unless the family member or friend also happens to be an editor or specialist in your field of writing, the feedback you get won’t be up to much. And even then it may very well be skewed because the person does not want to hurt your feelings if they have something negative to tell you. Or what if they do just give it to you straight and you end up fighting with them?
What if they love reading and happily agree to beta your book, but they only read Romance and you write High Fantasy? They are probably going to hate your book.
I had this experience a few years ago. I penned a fantasy short story and I asked a friend to read it. The only problem was they read true crime, so when I mentioned a fantasy creature and did not immediately describe it in minute detail, but filtered information in over the next few pages, they became confused and said they couldn’t understand what I was writing about. Fantasy and sci-fi readers have learned to expect dribbles of information about things they don’t immediately understand that builds to a complete picture through the story.
I had made the fundamental mistake of giving my writing to the incorrect audience.
And that’s generally what we do when we ask friends and family members to read our writing. Nine times out of ten, they are not your intended audience, so you will not get a response from them you need or desire. This is also why writing can be a lonely business.
So what should you do?
You can really only decide for yourself, but I tend not to have friends or family read my writing unless they ask me for it. If they give me feedback, I’ll listen, but I won’t take it to heart if they say bad things. Likewise I don’t get super-excited if they tell me they love what I have written and it is the best thing ever. They might just be being nice, or they haven’t actually read it after all and don’t know what else to say.
Find a writing group, either online or in person where there are people who are your intended audience or write the same genre as you. Share parts your writing in the group with those who are willing to read and offer constructive criticism. Have one or two people you trust implicitly to give you honest feedback on complete works.
It may be difficult to distance yourself and your writing from family and friends, especially if you are constantly fed negativity about your dreams.
But you’ve got this. You just need to find your place, and your people.
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