Monday, September 6, 2010

How I Critique Manuscripts...

...or Harmony forgot it was Monday.

One of my favorite things about having writing friends is that I'm often given the chance to read their work and offer my opinion on it. Sometimes these opinions can take a novel from pretty dang good to amazing and help turn the manuscript into something an agent is willing to take a chance on. Now, I'm not saying this makes me amazing or anything. Because it doesn't. It's the writer that's amazing and deserves the credit but there comes a point when we can't find all the flaws in our own writing and need someone else to point them out.

I love being one of the people to point them out. But, the first time I did it, I had no clue what I was doing. Now, I have a method. It varies slightly for every manuscript but here's my basic process:

1.) I read through the entire manuscript, almost as if I were reading a book. If something sticks out to me, I write it on a sticky note but at this point, I'm not specifically searching for flaws.

2.) Once I finish my first read-through, I start typing up a general overview of my feelings. I try to start out with some positive but genuine comments, then point out some things that make a difference through-out the story and effect the novel itself. Things I mention in this include characters or plotlines I feel could be developed more, possible changes to the plot, comments on the romance, and other things.

3. ) Then, I go back to chapter 1 and do a chapter-by-chapter critique. I usually stay away from those that need line-by-line critiques so what I focus on in this is pointing out unrealistic dialogue, confusing moments, if anything gets boring, as well as my favorite parts and lines that specifically stick out to me.

That's my general process, though I will tailor it to meet the specific needs of the writer. I also always remind them that what I say is purely my opinion and leave it up to them to take it or leave it.