Feedback: editing and tracking

I’m just writing this as I go (so I don’t have a month’s worth of Feedback and Editing and UX posts all ready to go). I may have totally screwed up by not planning this all out, but I really just wrote the first post to get my own thoughts out and it turns out I have a lot more thoughts…So I have learned a thing. And next time I have a big thought thing I might plan it out better. Maybe. …

My editing checks

I have some things I always get wrong. I try to make sure before I send anything out I do a good solid edit pass of my own to really make sure I’m proud of what I’m sending out. Knowing my own weaknesses is a strength. (Yes Dunning-Kruger, I know you. I fear you, as I should.)

  • Undescribed characters (yes, I have characters you don’t even know the gender of, sometimes that’s intentional, sometimes I just haven’t done a good job of describing the character)
  • White rooms (I’m not quite as bad with this, but still not great)
  • It’s and Its (I’m horrible at this, I’m very slowly, painfully getting better, but I always do a CTRL+F on both it’s and its and check each instance to make sure I got it right)
  • My word list (I have a list of words that I …probably don’t want to use unless I’ve got a good reason for it, I CTRL+F all of these as well)
  • Read out loud (yup, I read all my stuff out loud before sending it along)

This is just what I try to always run down my checklist. I have other things on my checklist but these are always things I try to nail down before I send it off to live in someone else’s brain.

Tracking feedback

I’m the kind of person who makes spreadsheets to track all the things. So I have a feedback tracking spreadsheet. For the Critters site I mark down everyone I critique for, my thoughts of it in the form of a 1-5 word note (good, weird, eh, NEVER AGAIN, hilarious), if they responded.

I also color code them. Green means do all the critiques for this person! Either the actual thing was fun to read or incredibly good. Or…maybe more frequently, it was good and the person was gracious in response. I have had things I read that weren’t great, but the person responded to lengthy or intense feedback thoughtfully, those people get a green fast. People who respond by lashing out, being weird or demanding, or aggressive? They get red. (I have seen very little of this, it is mostly positive.)

I think it helps take some of the oh I think I remember this person out of the equation and helps me to feel like I’ve got a basis for those future decisions.

Up next?

I think I’ll write about what I do with the feedback and how I take it in and what I do with it after I’ve got it.

I still want to wrap in how I think about the feedback as a user experience test but I’m having a hard time putting that into words.


I have no theme for today’s roundup of links. But I’m seriously excited about the Google Docs outlines thing. It is so nice. I

Writing Skills

Writing more is good. Whatever the words. Even “arse full of farts”. I’m all for fan fiction, writing back from a skeleton of something else, writing within another world (like for a tabletop game…not that I’d ever do that…). Write. Write. Write.

Though I do know someone who once copied the phone book, by hand…That kind of writing might not be super useful to developing writing skills. Though it does a great job of developing handwriting.

Flexible, electroluminescent skin

The first part of it is a little less than exciting visually, but keep watching, the end is mesmerizing.

The options for androids, cyborgs, and humans is incredible.

Perception and expertise

We don’t all see the same world. You and I can look at the exact same thing and see something radically different. Powerful, fascinating, worrisome. This also very much means that you shouldn’t assume just because someone else isn’t having the experience you are having that they are wrong. They have bring a different set of expertises and history to the situation.

Google Docs outlines

They now has baked in outlines. If you use the styles (Normal text/Heading 1/Heading 2) which of course you should because magic TOC and accessible, you now also get the amazing benefit of an outline automatically generated and navigable right from the left side of the screen. (Open it by going to Tools–>Document Outline (or CTRL+ALT+A). You can also navigate this way. So just click on the section you want to go to.

(This is a lot like the Navigation Pane in MS Word, though you can’t move the sections around.)

If you make all your parts H1s and chapters H2s and your scenes H3s and you can jump from spot to spot easily. I’m so excited about this. It’s about time but so nice.


Navigate scenes with the outline


A more complex outline (of this post!)


I’ve been reading a lot about beta-readers, critiques, feedback, editing, and all the things that surround it. This post (well series of posts) is me working out my thoughts about feedback of all kinds. It’s going to start fairly traditional, but expect it to take a weird turn at some point in the second or maybe third post…(UX…dun…dun…dun)

I’ve read about writers who are scared of feedback, nervous about sending things out into the world, and protective of the things they’ve written.

I’ve read from the professionallier people that you have to get lots of betas, you have to take in everything, you have to pay all your betas, you have to do 2 or 5 or 7 rounds of feedback, or that you have to [insert thing I read once here x 74].

I have absolutely zero authority, and zero whatever it takes …this is what I think!

Feedback is important

What is feedback? From who? What kind? How do I get it? What kind? What do I do with it? How do I respond to it? How do I use it? Oh god oh god it is all awful I should just delete the whole thing! (STOP!)

You may already know the answers to all of these questions. I didn’t. I still don’t. I guess we all have to struggle with our own things, but hopefully someone else is helped by me flailing in my continued quest to sort out the answers to these questions.

Getting feedback

I have tried a lot of stuff. So this is sort of the ways I’ve gotten feedback, not really what I do with it, or even so much what kind, how I respond, how I use it. I’ll get to all that later.

I am a member over at which is a site where you submit your own pieces, and other people critique it. You have to critique about three pieces for every piece of your own that gets critiques. The feedback varies greatly. Sometimes it is awesome and detailed and helps pinpoint exactly the problem. Sometimes it is…not great. It isn’t quite anonymous but you don’t know the people, you might get to know them a little after doing a bunch of critiques or getting a bunch, but the turn over seems fairly high, so there will always be people who know nothing about you giving feedback.

The anonymous aspect of it is interesting, people are generally quite polite, but people aren’t afraid to say that something doesn’t work for them, that they hate characters, arcs, etc.

There are also some other aspects of this that make it more or less useful. It is always weird to get people who don’t read flash fiction critiquing flash fiction and saying they wanted like pages and pages more background. It is odd to get things from people who hate that genre or type of work reading it and then saying how they didn’t like the thing that fits the genre. There seems to clearly be a sweet spot of length that works best.

I know there are other sites like Critters that do similar kinds of exchange things. I just haven’t used them.

Friends and family

I have a couple of family members who read inside my genre and a couple friends who do as well. Personally, I’m very nervous about sharing my work so it took me a long time to get to the point of sharing things with them. (I have a friend who bugged me for years before I let her read anything.) I generally have them read a fairly close to final version and some of the picky ones come back with grammar things (which I love, comma fail).

I do have one extremely picky and brutally blunt friend who I will ask to read early things, because I know he’ll say things I don’t really want to hear. He never feels bad (at least he doesn’t seem to!) about saying that something sucks, or needs a rework, or even isn’t working at all.

Most friends and family you’d share things with should like you, and want to be nice to you. This is great, and can be a good way to sort out ideas early on, get a boost that you should keep working, and the like.

Novel swaps from NaNoWriMo

I’ve done this a couple times. Or tried would be a better way to say this. I’ve signed up and read a lot of books for other people and sent critiques, feedback, reviews, whatever you want to call it.

Sometimes this works well. I’ve met people who are wonderful are excited to give feedback and are glad to hear what you have to say. Sometimes people don’t ever respond past the first, here’s my novel now read it.

Personally, I’ve found that sending a sample of the first chapter or two back to the person and then asking them if that is the level/type/kind of feedback is what you are looking for helps. It helps identify the people who never respond again. It helps make sure I’m looking at the things the authors wants looked at. It helps make sure we are on the right page. And personally, if they say thank you? It helps me feel better about spending a lot of time on a read and feedback.


You can pay for beta-readers and all levels of editors, copy editing, proof-reading, etc. I know some people think this is absolutely vile and disgusting, but whatever. I don’t pay beta readers. I do try to:

  • Show my extreme gratitude with specific and thoughtful thanks
  • If they are also a writer offer to give them feedback/beta-read for them (and then make sure that I do a detailed and thoughtful job and a quick turn around)
  • If they are a local (friends and family basically) and not a writer, buy them dinner
  • Help with other things, if appropriate (I have NonWriterly skills…most of my skills maybe…)

On the other side when I do give feedback to people I want to be thanked, to know my contribution was valuable and useful. I want reciprocation (most of the time).

Memory Roundup

I’ve been thinking a lot about memory and the brain, again. I feel like I always loop back to stories about memory, the brain, and perception. They are the thing that interests me. That captures my imagination. I thought I would give a memory roundup of some of the things that have been rattling around in my brain the loudest and some of the very interesting stories I’ve re-dug up this week. (Many of them are older, but from what I can tell still relevant.)

Long Term

Long Term Memory Priorities

Because P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way…

Spaced Repetition

It isn’t just about remembering something or repeating it often. It needs to be repeated in the right kinds of ways, as well as retrieved which is a huge part of things, if I say something to you a thousand times you won’t be nearly as likely to remember it as if I made you say it.

or Spaced Retrieval (which personally makes it easier to remember what we are talking about because words mean things…)

This technique is also called spaced retrieval, because you are retrieving the information from your memory over spaced intervals.

Memory and Forgetting

Memory is such a tricky thing, but it isn’t just what we remember that is important, what we forget can change our view of the world.

So, there we have it; it’s not just about how much information we can cram into our memories at once, it also about how much we can keep out.

Next time you find yourself having a hard time remembering a phone number or image, just blame your distracted brain.

Myth of the Neurotic Creative

It is entirely reasonable to be creative and be not be neurotic. And creativity is so much more than just making art.

One can be creative in any field. There are a lot of uncreative artists and a lot of creative accountants.

Perception vs Reality

Perception is strange. I’ve had a couple things come up this week that make me doubt my memory and my perception of the world, which quite frankly hangs by the thinnest of threads anyway. It helps to remind myself that others have gap filled, confusing, incoherent memories too. Just some people might have a better ability to smooth those gaps and cobble together a cohesive story out of it.

Memory itself is not like a video-recording, with a moment-by-moment sensory image. In fact, it’s more like a puzzle: we piece together our memories, based on both what we actually remember and what seems most likely given our knowledge of the world. Just as we make educated guesses in perception, our minds’ best educated guesses help “fill in the gaps” of memory, reconstructing the most plausible picture of what happened in our past.

Heuristic bonus

To Do Lists

To Do Lists?

I love them. I have a very deep love for to do lists. But I want to not just write to do lists, I want them to help me write better. For me Chuck Wendig style flailing and shouting isn’t actually useful. Yes, but what will I write? Which project? How much? By when? Me? I need structure. All brains love structure, but I know mine does and I want to feed it structure so it can barf out success.

Try and try and try again

I’ve been trying different varieties for a while and narrowing down what really helps. I just don’t like digital to do lists. I have no doubt that this will come as a shock to people who know me and know how much I love tech stuff, all the tech stuff. But for me there is something wonderfully visceral about having a to do list and crossing things off and then throwing it away when it is done. Crumpling up my phone and tossing it away and sighing with success is not really a thing.

Physical lists

So with a physical list and mostly focusing on weekends, I tried a bunch of things. I tried just making a straight up list of everything that needed to be done. Overwhelming.  I tried making a list broken out with each chunk of the day and what I was going to do. Better, but unsatisfying.

These were sort of my two main points after some very unsuccessful attempts earlier that included digital lists, lists of only the next 2 and 3 things that needed to happen, lists that only showed the task I was supposed be working on at that moment. Just didn’t work.

What works for me

A multipart list has worked best for me. It basically comes in two parts, the primary list and bonus.

A list chunked out Friday PM/Sat AM/Sat PM/Sun AM/Sun PM. Broken out like this I can have a general idea of what I’m supposed to be doing, if I have brunch plans they can be listed, but they won’t take up the whole chunk of that space. So it stops me from feeling like I’ve just overwhelmed a part of my day with a social obligation (yes, I’m an introvert, why do you ask?). It also gives me a way to check and see how I’m doing without checking too frequently.

The bonus tasks list is a list of things that I can do and cross off at any point during the weekend. It isn’t a huge problem if they don’t get done at all, but they also help me to not feel like I am only treading water. Adding the bonus tasks really helped me to feel like whoohoo! I’m ahead of the game. Which is really where I want to be. Simply adding all those additional tasks to the primary task list made me feel like I wasn’t getting ahead and I was falling behind if I wanted to do something like put off taking the trash out until the next time I was leaving the house. All the stress was not productive and I got less done.

What are bonus tasks? For me they are mostly household things. They are easy and fast to do and I get to cross them off. I know chances are very good I will do them. They are easy to do when I need to take a break from whatever it is I’m working on. They are also sometimes things for writing or the podcast that could be done now but aren’t really needed for a while.

So partial day chunks with a bonus task list. Generally created Friday morning before work, sometimes Thursday evening. I have found a tasking plan that works for me!

Any problems?

A weird and specific to me problem is audio recording. I need to be mindful of running the washing machine, turning on the heat, or my robot cleaner when I want to do audio. The sound is usually one I can clean out, but it is easier and faster if I just don’t have it there to start with. It is mostly something to be aware of. I also know I tend to do those things in the morning so I put audio recording duties as afternoon tasks.

What is your motivating, planning, get to creating style?


Another Friday, another challenge from Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds. Last week people posted the first sentence for something, only the first sentence. He got over 500 comments, eep!, and selected 10. I picked one of those and this is my take on that sentence.


“Of all the things I expected to find in my tomato soup, this wasn’t one of them.” (Stella Wood)

I grinned and slurped down the chunk of real, fresh tomato. I pushed my spoon through the soup and saw a sliver of green, I dug hungrily for it. Inhaling deeply I could almost smell the real black dirt that must have been used to grow the basil.

The shredded cheese on the top was standard for the cans of soup everyone used, but the rest, was magic. I wasn’t even sure what else was in it but I knew I wanted more. I ate the rest of it with abandon, slurping, licking the bowl clean.

The waitress finally came back over to my table as I leaned back and tore the bread. I hadn’t even dunked it in the soup. It was great too, but great bread was easy to find. Actual tomato chunks? Not so easy.

“That was amazing, how do you even get fresh tomatoes?” I stared up at her in awe.

“We grow them in the hot house. We’ve got lots of herbs and in the fall, fresh squash.” Her warm smile sharpened and she shifted uncomfortably. “It’s perfectly legal and most of our customers like it, you don’t have to eat here. Some people just prefer the whole thing.”

I waved my hand to stop her. “I think it is delicious.” She was worried I was going to lecture her. “The last time I had a real tomato, it was a caprese salad at a very fancy place. They advertised as shipping in all their produce whole grown. It wasn’t anything like this. The waitstaff lectured us about how they did only the bare minimum to enhance the flavor.” She snorted.

“No, you have to salt the tomatoes or they just taste like tangy water.” I laughed and she glanced around the empty cafe. She pulled up the seat across from me. “We use the prettiest ones in the BLTs. You should try one, they are my favorite this time of year. The lettuce is still crisp and the first tomatoes are ripening. They explode with flavor.”

“How can you do it? I know people can grow stuff for themselves, but…” I trailed off not quite sure. Was I asking too much? Prying? Exposing something illegal? I knew the really high end places had to have lots of certifications and the food would be flown in from specialized growers. I couldn’t imagine this tiny little alley way cafe could do that and serve three dollar soup.

“If you don’t buy the vegetables you are ok. We have a garden upstairs in our sun plot. There is always a chance, I suppose, that someone is going to push back against that. Although people who think that spending the time and energy on a potential crop failure should be banned aren’t the kinds of people who usually come in here anyway. They prefer to know exactly what they are going to get every time.” I felt my face turning red as she spoke.

I was one of those people. I went to the same places for all my meals, they were always the same, it was always good. I fumbled for something to say but she reached out and put her hand on my arm.

“We know all of the benefits of that. We understand, there is nothing wrong with it.” She smiled and patted my arm. “We just can’t afford those things. And I personally like making the soups.”

I frowned. “How can you spend all that energy on something that might fail?” I carefully guarded my energy, usually. Today had ended up being a disaster and I had to find new work, I didn’t really have the energy to be here spending time and thought on soup.

“I love it. Sure some days are failures, but those days end. I go to bed and get back up and try again the next day.” She leaned back in her chair and looked at me. “Not everyone thinks a bad day is the end of the world. Not every job fires someone for one bad day.”

I tore another chunk of bread and chewed it, giving myself time to think. Maybe you could be a waitress and have a bad day, though the places I frequented had an immaculate service standard, they wouldn’t sit down with a customer. They wouldn’t have a slow afternoon. I didn’t understand how this place hadn’t gone out of business. “Do your parents own this place?” If they were a wealthy family, maybe that would explain it. Children of owners were the only people who failed with impunity.

“No.” She grinned. The door chimed and someone came in. She raised a hand and waved. “Go ahead and sit anywhere, I’ll be right with you.” She gave me a sad sigh. “They say we are a creative world, but they punish actual creativity. I’ll bet you were released from your current contract today. If you need something we are looking for someone to wait tables in the morning.” She scribbled a number on the paper and walked over to greet the other patron.

I wanted to complain that I was better than that. I was an artist. I was part of the creative class. I was in charge of my own career, I could leave any job when I wanted, find something better.

I looked down at the soup bowl again. I paid the tab and left a good tip. I thought about the soup, the moment when that chunk of real tomato surprised me, discovering the basil. I always heard that art involved discovery. I wanted that feeling again. That rush of something new and unexpected.

I shoved the slip of paper in my pocket.

Color and Climate Roundup

This isn’t actually about just color and climate, but I they both start with a C? I’m not entirely sure. I just read the whole climate change article and feel overwhelmed.

Colors and words!

Color Thesaurus More words for colors is always a good thing. Plus this is just beautiful.

Nameless colors And taking color in the exact opposite direction is paint that is unnamed.

Writing and AI

Robots Learn Values from Books

Would you want the future of AI to learn from your novels?

The Future of Medicine

Tech and the Future of Medicine

Oh those Canadians! (I love Quirks and Quarks and highly recommend.) Most of these were technologies I’d heard before but it was sort of nice to really have a lot of them in once place and hear some speculation about how it could be used. The future is an amazing place. I look forward to it.

Cli-Fi without the Fi

Millennia of Sea-Level Change

This is not the short version of this. It includes a ton of links and references and charts and all the things.  Which reminds me of the interactive map from NOAA. There are a bunch of other maps out there (I didn’t see any with the brand new data, but it is brand new, if someone did please let me know).