Yesterday I had told someone I would read their work on the e-book community Wattpad, and I was disappointed in what I saw. The piece wasn't bad, it just wasn't compelling. I didn't know how to tell them this, however, without being mean. Was I supposed to tell them that they needed an editor, but that the plot was great, or tell them that the story just wasn't compelling? There are so many people who have great ideas, but for some reason or another their stories just don't work out the way they should. You can't change someone's writing style, you can only edit it until it's not even their own piece. It's one thing to have spelling errors, but another to have errors with your plot and choppy way of writing. So what should you do?
Give Them a Chance
I was at a workshop for something or another, and the instructor told us a piece of wisdom I thought was very interesting. He said something along the lines of:
"Always give one compliment and a comment about what you would have done differently."
"I liked your plot, but your characters were totally undeveloped and hard to relate to. I couldn't follow them at all."
"I liked your plot. If I was writing this story, I might focus a bit more on developing the characters to make them easier to relate to".
For some reason, I feel a lot better about myself when reading the second piece of feedback. There's a little bit of pressure taken off of me when the focus goes away from me and to the other person. Also, the second comment is more positive and uses positive words (easier instead of hard, etc.).
Just because you don't like a story at first, however, does not mean that the story is bad. I dislike stories that are written so that the reader is acknowledged (2nd person combined with 3rd or first person type story). I know lots of people that do, but don't like cliché, which I must admit I enjoy reading. It's really all about opinion. So while you should tell people the truth, you should tell it so that they know that you still respect them as an author. Try to find that balance between criticism and compliments, and you will help other people to improve, without risking a friendship :)
Which comment would you like given to you? Why? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!