You spent months, maybe years writing that manuscript, and now it’s done. The elation of novel completion is exultant and delightful. You’re torn between feeling as if you can (and should) conquer the highest mountain, and the intense need to sleep for hours on end. Unfortunately, the satisfaction of eyeing a completed manuscript is short lived, and the reality of the next steps can be a tad overwhelming and frustrating.
If you’ve just completed that piece, you may want to check my blog post, Revision Tips and Tricks (coming January 11).
For those of you who are ready to get feedback on your manuscript, read on!
First, a word of caution: writing is a fragile thing, and self-doubt and fear are creatures that can easily consume the desire to write. Be sure to carefully screen the people you give your writing to, especially earlier drafts. The people who provide you feedback should be honest but always constructive. They should build you up and make you excited to revise. If someone ever makes you feel bad about your writing, walk away as fast as you can, and don’t look back. I will include tips on how to avoid and screen for negative or destructive critique partners in this post, but if one should weasel their way into your life, cut ties immediately. Don’t let them feed your writing demons. You don’t need that shit.
Remember that not everyone will like your writing (and that is okay), but they should always treat your writing with respect. Also, while you should take all feedback with an open mind and not get defensive, not all feedback will be actionable or right for your story. Think long and hard (and consider the source and type of feedback) before you alter your story. Finally, always save an unaltered draft before you begin revisions. For more on putting feedback into action, Check out my post, Turning Feedback into Revisions (Coming January 12th).
Join a writing group.
If you haven’t done this yet, do it NOW! Writing groups will provide you with the resources and networking to develop meaningful writing relationships. This is the first step in finding someone to provide you feedback. There are different types of groups, the largest (and most important for your query letters) being national groups and associations like the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, all the way down to local writers groups. I recommend finding and participating in as many of these communities as possible.
- National groups: Sometimes you have to be published to be a member (as with the SFFWA), but you should be familiar with the association(s) for your genre.
- Regional: These are an awesome resource. Regional groups tend to be larger and thus have more influence and reach than local groups. My regional group, the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, is large enough to host writing conferences, workshops, contests, and agent and editor pitching opportunities.
- Local: Local writing groups are the best way to build meaningful critique groups and find writing partners. Check out bookstore and coffee shop bulletin boards to seek out these groups. Another great way to find (or start) a local group is through www.meetup.com.
Join a Critique group.
Critique groups are a great way to get feedback on your writing. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and chances are you can find at least one group that will meet your needs.
- Make sure they have rules and regulations in place that specify
- What feedback should look like
- How much writing you are allowed to submit
- A procedure to follow if someone gets mean or overly aggressive with their feedback
- A procedure to follow for disagreements or disputes between members
- How to remove a member from the group (this is very important)
- Meet with the group a couple of times before submitting your work
- Watch the tone and exchanges during feedback sessions
- Consider how valuable the feedback provided seems to you (you will be putting time into reading and critiquing other people’s work, you need to be sure that your time is well spent. If the feedback you get isn’t meaningful, you are wasting critical writing time!)
Find a Critique Partner.
A good critique partner is worth their weight in gold. They can provide the same quality of feedback as an editor (if you find the right one) and they can take your writing to new levels. The best place to find a critique partner is through local writing groups.
- Create rules and regulations-
- Establish what you want your feedback to look like
- Establish a way to let your partner know if their feedback isn’t working for you
- Consider writing up a formal agreement that protects both of you
- Just as with a critique group, interview your potential partner multiple times, take a look at how they edit and make sure their writing values and feedback fit with what you are looking for.
- They don’t need to match your style, but they need to be able to appreciate and respect your writing.
- Have an exit strategy in case the partnership doesn’t work out.
Find a Freelance Editor.
This is a costly option, and it comes with its own dark waters, but if you are planning on self-publishing, or you cannot find someone to provide you with effective, honest feedback, finding an editor might be the way to go.
- Make sure to screen potential editors.
- Check out my post, Finding a Freelance Editor (Coming January 23).
- Find someone with experience in the genre you write.
- Treat this like hiring an employee and create a list of potential editors to do extensive research on before you settle.
- Many editors have payment plans, check into those if you are strapped for cash.
- Know what you are asking for (IE: Know the difference between developmental and copy editing and understand the different levels of each before you sign anything with an editor).
There is one more option available to those looking for feedback, the big online critique groups (they seem like huge manuscript databases to me). I have no experience with these. Thus I left them off my list. The idea of sharing my work with someone unknown to me is terrifying. If you have participated in a group like this, comment and let me know what you thought of it!
- Use caution. Make sure you screen the people you are going to trust with your manuscript. Your writing is valuable and the people looking at it should treat is as such!
- Always ask for sample edits from anyone you plan on getting feedback from and be prepared to give them a sample edit so that they can see what your critique style is like.
- Talk with the people you plan on giving your work to. Talk to them multiple times. Make sure you jive. Trust your instincts. If someone makes you tense or puts you on the defensive in normal banter, you probably shouldn’t share your work with them.
- Remember that you have the ultimate power over your story. Listen with an open mind. Be reflective. Trust your instincts.
Posts to check out next:
- Never Underestimate The Influence Of Your Manuscript’s First Pages
- Turning Feedback into Revisions (Coming January 12)
- Critique Tips: Providing meaningful feedback for someone else (Coming January 16)
- Finding a Freelance Editor (Coming January 23)