How to give constructive feedback
When you find yourself reading something that has some serious issues, how do you feed that back effectively? Do you just drop it all in a review and hope for the best? Or do you reach out to the author? And how do you give that feedback without coming across as negative?
Please share your stories and experiences.
I think, in most contexts, giving constructive feedback is something close to impossible... but probably worth attempting from time to time anyway. Also, giving advice teaches the adviser, sometimes more effectively than it does the advisee.
But here's the first rule of giving constructive feedback: be right. That's not easy unless you're giving advice on a glaringly obvious mistake. The worst thing you can do is give persuasive advice which is actually wrongheaded and leads the writer in the wrong direction. To know what's right, you've probably got to understand what the author is up to, and be at least partially attuned to, or sympathetic to his or her goals.
The kind of advice I like to give and hear, though, is advice that encourages unconventional approaches and the courage to go one's own way. I don't like advice aimed at making a work more conventional, more mainstream, more palatable, normal, and bland. You can take all the soul out of a work by forcing it into a conventional mold and then polishing the shit out it until just about anyone could have written it (with a "good" editor).