If you are not a part of a writers critique group, then I’d recommend finding one. There some on line though yahoo groups that are for writers. Local or area writers organizations in Panhandle Professional Writers or Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., to name a couple are good places to connect with other writers and form a critique group. This way you can put eyes on your manuscript that can look at it from a different perspective.
These critique groups usually have some loose rules or guidelines. For example, they focus on fiction, nonfiction or a specific genre. Critiques focus on the writing and not the person. Comments should be restricted to constructive criticism and focus on how to make the piece better.
However, what do we usually think of when we hear the term constructive criticism? We have a negative reaction. No one wants to be criticized. Writers put a piece of themselves out there for anyone to see. Sometimes we get defensive. Sometimes the comments are cutting and harsh, not purposely, but they can be interpreted that way. I’ve seen new writers devastated by someone else’s comment and they never want to write another word. I know it is difficult to have someone else show you everything that is wrong with your writing. You just spent hours writing and feel pretty good about it and then … Unfortunately, our brains interpret any kind of criticism. even if it is called constructive, as a personal attack. It feels like we are personally rejected and criticized.
Feedback is different, and I’m not just redefining a term or giving it a new face for the same old thing. Feedback is consistent and ongoing. It’s like a coach teaching your child how to play baseball and become a consistent, good hitter. You hear the coach say things like, “spread your feet apart a little more”; “keep you eye on the ball”; “see yourself hitting the ball in your mind”. Other coaches may work with a child learning to catch the ball. It can be as simple as keep your eye on the ball. Each time they throw the ball the coach says, “catch” or “miss”. With practice, the child hears more “catch” than “miss” and gains confidence.
I believe that the best we can do for each other in critique groups is to give honest feedback without any energy or emotion attached. If we think there is a disconnect in the character, then tell the writer that you experience a disconnect. Suggest changes. Share your own learning experiences dealing with the same type of challenge. Ask more experienced writers to come and visit with your group. I’m not saying give fake compliments and praise or patronizing comments. Be honest, but focus on the manuscript, not the person.