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Questions for a Manuscript Critique

“Questions for a Manuscript Critique” by Joan Y. Edwards

If you are critiquing a manuscript on the computer, here are hints to make your notes stand out:

It’s always helpful and kind to note three Blue Ribbon (Best) passages
Use a different color font.
Use all caps. SHOW, DON’T TELL.
Cross out words to delete  like this .
Highlight areas to delete in yellow.
Highlight things to consider adding highlighted in blue.


Write these questions at the beginning of your manuscript. It will help the person doing the critique let you know your story’s strengths as well as give you places that need enrichment.

Questions for a Critique from James N. Frey

The following 8 tips for Critiquing comes from James N. Frey’s “How to Write a Damn Good Novel.”*

  1. What do you think my emotional premise for this story is? what plus what leads to what? ___ + ___ = ___
  2. What am I trying to prove to you the reader is true about human nature in this story?
  3. What is my strongest and greatest scene (chapter)? Why?
  4. What is my worst scene (chapter)? Why?
  5. Grade each scene (chapter) on a scale of 1-10
    Totally Gripped 10
    Mildly Interested 5
    Completely Bored 1
  6. Favorite character – why?
  7. Least favorite character – why?
  8. Recount the story for me (beginning, middle, and end) after reading it without looking back at the manuscript.

*Used with permission by James N. Frey.

I think the following fill in the blanks is a good way to recount your story and discover a pitch for it. I learned this from Lisa Schroeder (www.lisaschroederbooks.com) at the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writer’s Workshop 2010.

This is a story about _______________________(main character)
Who wants __________________________________ (main character’s goal)
But ______________________________________ (main character’s obstacle) stands in his way)
Until he/she ________________________________________(action taken by main character)

17 Questions for a Critique from Joan Y. Edwards:

After reading my manuscript, please answer these questions and explain your answers.

  1. Do you know what main character wants?
  2. What was he willing to do to get it?
  3. What kept the main character from getting what he wanted?
  4. Did he get what he wanted?
  5. What were the mistakes that the main character made?
  6. What were his flaws? (He’s got to be flawed.)
  7. What was the lowest point in the story?
  8. Did main character change? How?
  9. What did main character learn about life from his experiences in this story?
  10. Do you know what the other main characters want?
  11. Does each character have his own voice?
  12. Can you tell when a different character is talking?
  13. What do you want to know that I’m not telling you? Write your questions in the manuscript when you think of them.
  14. Does it make sense? If not, note parts that don’t make sense right in the manuscript.
  15. Did I have the main character face his conflict or run away?
  16. Did he save himself by human means or did I save him with unbelievable magical things?
  17. Are there three or more Blue Ribbon passages? What are they? Highlight them in the manuscript.

Ask yourself the above questions about your own manuscript? You may find places that need your enhancement.

Thanks for reading my blog. I am honored by your presence here. Good luck with your life’s goals.

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Never Give Up!
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2011-2016  Joan Y. Edwards


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4 Responses

  1. Comprehensive post. Just added it to my “:writing for children” wiki. Thanks!


    • Dear Carol, Thanks for writing. I’m glad you thought my post was comprehensive. I’m honored that you added it to your writing for children “wiki.” Good luck with your publishing world!

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards Never Give Up Blog http://www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com


  2. HI Joan,

    I think it would be very helpful to add these questions to a work-in-progress. The author could go back and check to see if each question can be answered before sending it off for others to critique. This helps with writing and critquing!
    Well done.

    Linda A.


    • Dear Linda, Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you think it would be helpful to add these questions to your work-in-progress. You’re right the author can check to see if each question can be answered before sending it off to others for a critique. Do something good for yourself!

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards Never Give Up http://www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com


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