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Reader Response Questions (Creative Writing Exercise)

This week we talked about figuring out what you need to fix in your writing, and what to do with the feedback your readers give you, but there’s an important overlap between those two that I didn’t discuss out all: asking your readers about the things you know you need to fix.

I’ll probably dedicate a whole blog post to the topic someday, but while these thoughts are fresh on our minds, let’s go ahead and get started in the right direction. Think about your current work in progress, whether that’s the fourth novel in a 25-book series, or just a blog you post to occasionally. Figure out what you’re worried about, in terms of the writing. Does your grammar bother your readership? What about organization and clarity? Or maybe your goals are higher than that, and you need to know if your posts are eliciting the proper emotional response, or if your characters seem as real as best friends.

Sit down and think about what it is you want your writing to do, and then make a list — ask your readers if you’ve succeeded. Make your questions open-ended, encouraging longer and thought-out answers, but make them specific, too. Some of my favorites are, “What was your favorite scene? What’s something from the story that you’ve found yourself thinking about even when you weren’t reading? Which character did you find the most engaging, and why?”

You’ll be amazed how many people read your book and think, “It’s good” is a satisfactory answer. Not all of your readers are going to want to fill out a book report, but some of them are going to feel unqualified to give their honest opinions, even when they do have them. Providing a list of specific questions gives them a place to start, and provokes them to actually voice their opinions.

This exercise doesn’t really deserve a section on the discussion board, but it’s information that’s well worth sharing. So click through to the comment and tell us what questions strike you as the most helpful. That can be an incredible resource for all of us.

3 Responses to “Reader Response Questions (Creative Writing Exercise)”

  1. Good points. I have been thinking about how to present test readers with my story once it’s been revised. I can see “It’s good” being the standard answer you get from anyone, and obviously not helpful in the least.

    Some of the questions I am thinking about are:
    1. Was there any part that didn’t make sense, either logically or in its description?
    2. Did any part strike you as not believable and why?
    3. Were there any parts in which a character did something that surprised you, or something you didn’t see coming?
    4. What questions about the story, character(s) or setting did you find unanswered in the book?

  2. Courtney Cantrell says:

    Which parts made you want to stop reading?

    Which parts made you want to keep reading?

  3. Aaron Pogue says:

    Those are some great questions!

    I’d definitely recommend throwing in some positive ones. It can feel a little bit like fishing for a compliment, but when most of your test readers are friends and family, they want to say nice things about your book. Give them a way to say, “It was good” that’s actually focused and useful.