Thursday, November 6, 2014

Preparing to Get Your Manuscript Critiqued

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.


If you want to become a better writer . . . if you've written something and want an opinion on it . . . or if you feel your piece is ready for publication . . . it’s a good idea to get some feedback before you submit to a publisher. And not just from your best friends and family, either. At some point, you need to find a serious critique group.

What to expect? In an online group, you post your chapter and people download it and write their comments on your manuscript in a colored text or critique it using Track Changes. People tend to point out anything and everything that they feel is a mistake or could use improvement. So, it’s a good idea for you to decide what kind of help you want before you pass your manuscript around. If you want the works, say so. I always say, “Rip it to shreds.” Or “Tell me whatever bothers you.” I don’t have to take every bit of advice I get--and there are times where someone gives me advice that I know is wrong--but I still like to know what people are thinking. 

If you don’t want people to point out your spelling errors or punctuation, say so. Maybe you only want feedback on a character. Or maybe you only want to know if the piece holds the reader’s interest until the end. Whatever you want to know, tell your critique partners up front. This will save everyone a lot of time and get you the help you need. 


Here are a few things you can do before submitting your work for critique:

1. Decide what you’d like your critique group to look for. Do you want the works? Or do you simply want to know if the story holds their interest? 

2. Check for grammar and spelling errors. The spell check is great, but it doesn’t catch mistakes like: its/it’s, their/there/they’re, or though/through/thought. Train your eye to catch these things before you ask others to look it over. You always want to be as professional as possible. 

3. Make sure that your manuscript is formatted correctly. One inch margins all around. Double spaced. Times New Roman 12-point font. Indentations to .05. For a video on proper manuscript format, click here

4. Prepare yourself for criticism. Your critique group doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. They're trying to help you improve what you’ve written. Be ready for that. When you’re waiting for your feedback, you might want to psych yourself up a bit because taking criticism can be hard. Try to keep in mind that all writers are criticized. Even bestselling authors get negative reviews. Criticism is part of being a writer, so a critique group is a great place to thicken your skin and start getting used to it. 

Also remember, that a critique group should be a safe place to learn. Expect negative feedback, because that means you can figure out how to make the story better before you send it to a publisher. But if your critique group is hurtful and disrespectful, you should probably look for a new one. Try not to be overly sensitive, though. By its very nature, a critique looks for the negatives in your writing. Weaknesses and mistakes that we all make. No author is perfect. So it's logical that a critique group spends most of their time talking about what’s wrong with your piece rather than what’s right. 

When you get your work back, read the comments over once rather quickly. If you are frustrated or angry, close the file or put the paper away and wait a day or two. Come back to it when you’ve had time to think and relax. Then, let it go. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree. But if you find that three or more people have given you the same advice, you’d be wise to listen.

Hope that helps! How about you? What do you do to prepare for a critique? Share in the comments.

15 comments:

  1. This is great! I'm so excited to start with the group I was assigned. :)

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  2. Indeed, this knowledge is really useful. And the critique group I'm assigned to (my first one!) is awesome! I can hardly wait to start reading and talk about writing with them! Thank you, Mrs. Williamson and Mrs. Morrill! :D

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    1. You're welcome! (This was all Stephanie's doing, btw. She organized all the groups.)

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  3. This is great! I'm really excited with the group I was assigned, and this is a big help. Thanks!

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  4. What you said about three or more people thinking something needed changed reminded me of one of my stories. I had all sorts of people critic one of my stories, and had to use all of what you wrote to keep going with my story.

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    1. It can be really hard. I've cried so many times over critiques. I'm glad you kept going!

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  6. I've been writing books for eight years and it was only last year that I finally let someone read what I wrote. When anyone gave me critiques, I had to remind myself they were critiquing the book and not my ability to write. It's really easy to take it personally. The truth is, I want to be a good writer and without hard work and learning, it won't happen. Also, I don't think there's anyone in the world who has a great first draft. I usually revise it two or three times now before letting others see it.

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    1. Absolutely, Anna. Give yourself permission to write flawed first drafts. No one is perfect, especially on the first try.

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  7. I have heard of two types of critiques. Line by line and concept. Line by line is literally them looking carefully at every single line. Concept is general impression, character, plot etc. it is a bit more general.

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    1. Yes, there are different types of edits. Perhaps that would be a good blog post. I have collected a lot of information on the subject. Hmm... :-)

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    2. That would be really nice to have a blogpost on that too Jill!

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  8. It's never easy, is it? Getting critiqued. But it is SO VERY HELPFUL. As an FYI, my agent asks all of her authors to get feedback from writing friends before manuscripts are submitted to her. It helps weed out the low hanging fruit, she says.

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  9. It says in go teen writers book that you can courier font as well. My character is typing about and experience that happened to her. Do I make what she's writing a different font to what she's thinking as she's writing, or is it amateurish? Does this make sense??

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