Proof of Write.

Because it’s about time an addiction was good for you.

Over in my writers community, To Live & Write, there are at least three opportunities every week to read up to five minutes of your latest work to a handful of people. It’s called Proof of Write and that’s it’s purpose: to give you a place to prove you have put new words on the page that day. On Wednesday and Friday nights, you can ask for positive feedback. It has to be positive feedback because trying to critique raw work could do damage to fledgling stories.

Positive feedback is provided by whoever happens to show up for Proof of Write. It’s an online activity, live and in real time. The host knows the rules and spells them out at the top of every session:

  • Reading time: 5 minutes, max.
  • Everyone gets a turn. If you have nothing to read, you do not belong in the room. There are plenty of other spaces where we welcome visitors to just listen in, but not here.
  • It must be raw work, written within the last few days (ideally within the last 12-24 hours).
  • Give us trigger warnings whether you think they’re necessary or not – death, violence, illness, abuse, etc.
  • Read at an even pace; rushing through makes it hard to listen and identify what’s working.
  • If you don’t want feedback, let us know. The point is to prove you wrote something and once you’ve done that, you’re good.
  • When it’s not your turn to read, listen carefully for what works for you and do not interrupt.
  • Keep your feedback focused on the writer’s craft.
  • If you have a problem with the content, keep it to yourself; this is about effort and craft.
  • Resist the urge to relate what you heard back to yourself — you may love that they write just like your favorite author, but that might be an insult to them.
  • This is not the time to ask questions, even about context. Focus purely on the strength of the passage you just heard.

The inherent value in positive feedback, apart from attaching the writer to a natural high, is to draw attention to what’s already working so the author can let go of anxiety around that skillset and forge ahead with their storytelling feeling a little lighter and a little more capable.

It’s important to know what we’re doing well. When we know our strengths, our weaknesses change from barriers of self-doubt to opportunities for experimentation and growth.

A few examples of positive feedback:

  • The way you described the room put me right there. It was a shock to open my eyes and be back here.
  • Your dialogue was snappy and fun. I could tell they were close right away.
  • I love the way it was all fun and games until it wasn’t. That last bit was so powerful.
  • That character was so relatable. I understood immediately who they were.
  • I’m so intrigued by your world building. It felt so real, even though it was a different planet.

That’s all fine and good for raw work, but when it comes to a scene or a chapter we’ve worked on and polished to the best of our ability, a lot of writers want to know what’s not working so they can go back and fix it. Without feedback on the not-so-well-done stuff, it can feel like we’re flailing around in the dark, not sure what’s missing. That’s where critiques come in.

Within The Serial Collective is a group of writers who exchange critiques with each other. It’s called The Critique Pool and I am the busiest member; while everyone else gets to limit how many critiques they owe in a week, I’m committed to critiquing every submission.

To sign up for Proof of Write, join To Live & Write on Facebook, RSVP in The Week Ahead (you can find it in the Features section of the group) and show up with something to read.