This is the 7th post in the Why Not Series.
“Why Not? Day 7 Get Your Writing Critiqued. Go Ahead.” by Joan Y. Edwards
- You’ve written sentences.
- You’ve written paragraphs.
- You’ve written an article, poem, short story, manuscript, screenplay.
- You’ve written a title.
- You’ve written a pitch.
- You’ve revised your writing at least three times.
Now you are ready to get someone else to read your work. Now you’re ready for a critique.
Things to remember about a critique.
- One person’s opinion doesn’t mean it is the truth. It does not mean what they say is a fact. It is not their opinion about you personally. It is about your writing. Keep the two things separate in your mind.
- Don’t change anything you don’t agree with 100 per cent. Remember it’s your story. You are the author.
- Let your manuscript and the critique rest in a drawer for at least a week maybe more before you do anything with it. Give time for the ideas to take root in your brain and jog around in your imagination.
Find Compatible Critique Partners or Critique Groups
Writing organizations in your town or state may have critique groups for you to join. I know the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators helps members find critique groups. Join a Facebook group or Yahoo group for writers. Ask in your church, school, or workplace. Look for writers who write in the same genre as you. It’s easier to focus on getting and giving the best advice and feedback when all members in a critique group write in the same genre. I have been in critique groups where members were happy and talented and did multiple genres well.
Hire a professional editor
Choose someone who has critiqued successful books in your genre.
Ask for references, so you can interview the authors who used this particular editor.
Ask for titles of books he edited.
Ask about his fees and what each fee covers.
Ask the authors of your favorite books in your genre who they used to edit their books. Sometimes it is listed inside the book.
How to Benefit the Most from Your Critique Group
It’s great to have a critique group, either in person or on-line. Here are ways to benefit the most from your critique group:
Be thankful for ways a critique group can help you
- Another person can spot those spelling, punctuation, or grammar that you’ve read over 10 times and didn’t notice.
- If you want to know if a particular scene in your book is working, the members in your critique group can give you their opinions. They can offer choices for solutions to problems you noticed yourself.
- The people in a critique group can teach you, inspire you, encourage you, and tell you the best written passages (Blue Ribbon parts) of your manuscript, query letter, cover letter, proposal, synopsis, summary.
Before you hand your manuscript and pitch to someone for critique: Remember these things
- Give others the right to like or dislike your work. Accept that it’s okay if they don’t like it and okay if they do like it. Ask for suggestions they believe would make it better. That doesn’t mean you have to use it. It may lead you to an idea you like.
- Be open to change. Change creates a path to a stronger and better manuscript. Decide which parts of your manuscript are non-negotiable and which parts are negotiable.
- Share only your best writing. Check your spelling and grammar with your writing software or other sources before you get your work critiqued by others.
Guide for a Good Manuscript Critique
How can you give a good manuscript critique? When you critique a manuscript, you want to do a good job. You want the writer to understand clearly what you think. You want to give them both ways to correct and ways to enhance the manuscript. You want to show the author where the writing is great as well as where it needs improvement.
When you critique a manuscript, make your notes stand out. Be creative.
- Highlight in blue or put in blue text at least three of the best written passages – Blue Ribbon passages. In this particular manuscript, these parts win First Prize – the Blue Ribbon like they used to give at the County Fairs.
- Highlight in yellow or put in red text, and/or cross out words you believe should be deleted
- Use a different color font for your remarks from the one the writer used.
- Use all caps for your input. WHAT A STRONG BEGINNING!
- Devise your own clever way to note your feedback on the manuscript.
Ideas for a Good Critique
When you ask another person to critique your work, you can highlight questions for special emphasis.
If you’re the author, ask yourself the questions below about one of your own manuscripts.
When critiquing an author’s work, keep the following suggestions in mind as you read it. It will help you focus on the story’s strengths, as well as give the author ideas for enrichment. Feel free to add ideas of your own.
25 Suggestions for a Helpful Critique
- Write in your questions as you read the manuscript.
- Write in your ideas you’d like for the author to consider.
- Does the title catch your interest?
- Does the pitch (logline, selling summary, blurb) give the essence of the story?
- Which parts, if any, confused you?
- Note punctuation and grammar errors.
- What are the three main errors in punctuation and grammar for the author to correct?
- Point out pet words that the author uses over and over? A thesaurus might have other words to use in place of them.
- Point out where the writer needs to show, not tell.
- What do you want to know that the writer doesn’t tell you in the story?
- Does the story make sense? If not, note in the manuscript which parts that don’t make sense.
- Do you know what the protagonist wants? What is he willing to do to get it? What keeps him from getting what he wants?
- What mistakes does the protagonist make?
- What are the protagonist’s flaws? (He’s got to have flaws.)
- What is the lowest point in the story? The part where it looks like there is absolutely no way the protagonist is going to get what he wants.
- Does the protagonist change? How? It makes the story work when the main character has to change to get what he wants.
- Does the protagonist face his conflict or run away?
- Does the protagonist save himself by human means or is he saved by unbelievable circumstances that seems like magic? The main character seems more human when he saves himself.
- What does the main character learn about life from his experiences in this story? (Theme)
- Do you know what each character wants?
- Does each character have a distinct voice of his own?
- Is the dialogue believable? Is it tagged appropriately?
- Can you tell when a different character is talking?
- What are three of the best written (Blue Ribbon) passages?
- Retell my story in three sentences: beginning, middle, and end. (James N. Frey’s suggestion from How to Write a Damn Good Novel.) Through listening you’ll discover the strong parts and weak parts. If you have trouble, tell the author which parts aren’t clear.
*****For a fun read and a chance to win a free Giveaway, see my “Interview with Becoming Hero’s Author, Jen Finelli:” https://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/interview-with-becoming-heros-author-jen-finelli/
Brian Klems. Writers Digest. “Ten Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You But Should:” http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/10-things-your-freelance-editor-might-not-tell-you-but-should
Ellen Dodson. “Guide for Critique Groups & Individual Critiques:” http://www.scbwior.com/links/CritGroup.html
Jennifer Evans. “Guidelines for Group Critiques of Fiction:”
Joanna Penn. “How to Find the Right Editor:” http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/07/14/how-to-find-the-right-editor/
Joan Y. Edwards. “James N. Frey Books to Improve Your Writing:” https://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/james-n-frey-books-to-improve-your-writing/
Joan Y. Edwards. “Guide for a Good Manuscript Critique:”
Joan Y. Edwards. “A Critique Is a Gift – It Contains Choices and Possibilities:”
Marg Gilks. “Fundamentals of Fiction, Part III: Critique Groups and Writers’ Groups:”
Stacy Ennis. “Five Ways to Find the Right Freelance Book Editor:” https://janefriedman.com/find-freelance-book-editor/
Suzanne. Zanzjan.net. “How to Give a Critique (Beginners):”http://www.zanzjan.net/writing/give-critique.html
Suzanne. Zanzjan.net. “How to Take a Critique (Beginners):” http://www.zanzjan.net/writing/take-critique.html
I wish you great success in your writing career. Thanks for reading this blog post. You honor me with your presence. Please leave a comment, resource, or question. I’d love to hear from you.
Never Give Up
Live with Enthusiasm
Celebrate Each Step You Take
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2017 Joan Y. Edwards
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