Asking for Reader Feedback: Scary but Awesome

Last year I joined a writers’ group called The Inkonceivables (I know, right? Adorbz!) with authors Nathan Fréchette, Marjo Lafrenière, Éric Desmarais, S.M. Carrière, and Jamieson Wolf. Confession: I really, really, really, times infinity did not want to ever be apart of one. Probably because of previously witnessing writers’ groups whose members spoke as if fatally absorbed in their own importance, posturing like peacocks.

Thankfully, I took the plunge and I simply love this group. The Inkonceivables are authors who share their works-in-progress (WIP), such as, short stories, poems, and novels. It’s kinda cool. We do a Google Hangout each week, which is great for my spoonie lifestyle, and I just sit back and listen to these amazing pieces. Whenever it’s my time to share, I confess my heart goes into full throttle as if I’m on stage again. Yeah, I get performance nerves!


What’s neat is that after we share our stories, we give the author our notes. Sometimes they are things like repetition or a redefinition of a word, but mostly it’s encouragement. We get to ask questions to the author, too, and I love that.

Because I am a straight, cis woman who writes queer characters (and who’s  been affectionately dubbed “the token cishet”), having a group of queer authors listen to my work is worth its weight in gold. I particularly value their opinions when it comes to The Stealth Lovers, my military space opera about Xax and Viv. I’ve received wonderful feedback about this story so far. When my buddy Jamieson Wolf kept saying, “Hon, you write gay men right,” I felt relieved and thrilled. I want a queer audience to cheer, laugh, and cry with Xax and Viv. I don’t want readers to scream, “BURN IT! BURN IT NOW!!!”

Occasionally getting reader feedback can be hysterical. I accidentally wrote in a short story something about eyeballs that they can’t physically do. One author pointed it out and another said, “But they’re aliens. Maybe their eyes can do that!” We all had a good chuckle at that one.

I think my initial NOPE about joining a writers’ group was because I felt terrified of being so much less than the other authors, thinking they’d trash my WIP to pieces. Instead, not only has the feedback proved invaluable, but also I get to listen to the writing of other authors, sharing in their journey as they develop their books. And we’re multi-genre, so my horizons broaden even more in this environment.

And you know what? Every single author in the group can feel nervous about sharing. Ah, authors, we’re so fantastically vulnerable.

I always knew that beta readers are important once I have a draft that’s ready for review, but now I understand that fellow authors who provide notes on whatever I’m ready to share are also vital to my writing process. We provide support to each other as we’re in the trenches, trying to write words good.

So, a big thanks to Nathan Fréchette for nudging me to join The Inkonceivables. I think I owe you my entire writing career at this point, plus thousands of dollars worth of psychotherapy.

Can’t wait for next week! My bff Talia “The Brain” Johnson is joining us. (What could possibly go wrong?) 😉

Cait Gordon

Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a story about a little green guy who’s crushing on the female half of his two-headed colleague. Cait is currently working on a prequel to ’Cosm called The Stealth Lovers, a rom-com military space opera. When she’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts for indie authors and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors are writers with disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also really likes cake.


Terri Skuce, Canadian Poet, gives me feedback on ‘Cosm

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Yesterday I met with Terri Skuce, who published her first book of poems, Dreamer: A Collection of Poems and Dreams, last fall. She has been involved in writing groups for over a decade, and even though she’s my friend, I know she’s no sugar-coater. My favourite thing about certain people in my life is that they’ll always put the truth before my feelings. Coming from a place like Verdun, Quebec, where honesty was spoken loudly and with colourful metaphors, this works for me. It’s one of the reasons I chose Terri to be among my beta readers. (Please note that she speaks gently and without all the swearing, but she’s a straight shooter.)

We went to lunch at a local hangout and I couldn’t stand waiting for her opinion about my upcoming novel, Life in the ‘Cosm. You know how in films it seems the director makes a person pause for an eternity before answering a question, but in real life it might only take two seconds? I’m telling you after I burst out with, “The suspense is killing me. What do you think about the book?” it felt like 20 years went by before Terri replied. In that pause I told myself I totally sucked as a writer. Then I ran away from home, dug a hole, and buried myself in it. Can you tell I’m a noobie at this process?

After I was ready to put the last bucket of sand over my head in my newly dug hole, Terri replied with a dead serious expression, “I think you have a winner.” I hopped out of my hole, elated. After that she gave me constructive tips about getting rid of more useless words, rewriting weaker sentences, and all sorts of good tips to tighten the manuscript. This is the kind of feedback I wanted. I think the best thing I heard from her was, “You made me laugh, and you made me cry. And when I cry during book…”

This was the icing on the cupcake. Having someone else feel my story is the greatest compliment I could get. Of course I’m attached to the characters, but when another person is moved, it’s almost better than cupcakes.

I’ve spent over a year solidly working on the story, and its contents have been a well-kept secret. I’m an expressive extrovert. I hate keeping secrets. I want to share everything with everyone on the entire planet. Sending my manuscript to beta readers was terrifying but a part of me was relieved to get it out there. Keeping the story to myself was like falling in love and not being able to tell a soul about the person I’m crazy about.

I’m looking forward to getting more constructive tips from my other beta readers. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to get real notes about how to improve my work. I purposely sent out an unpolished manuscript. It was better than a first draft, but nowhere near a submission draft. I strongly felt that I needed more eyes to comb through the work, so I can produce the best draft possible to send with my queries (hopefully) this fall.

Heroes are made when people take risks. It’s super scary, but very rewarding.

Whatever you do, don’t keep your writing under a mattress or hidden from the world. Take a chance and send it out there, even to friends. It’s totally up to you what you do with their feedback.

Now, excuse me while I cover up the hole I dug in the ground. I don’t want someone to fall in and get hurt. 😉


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer for high tech and government organizations. Her first novel is with beta readers and she’s accidentally writing her second in the series. She didn’t know there would be a series. Huh.

Cait is also Madam President of her consulting company, Dynamic Canvas Inc., Chief Crafter at Cait Cards, and works part time as Assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa.