When someone agrees to critique your work, they are giving you the gift of time and expertise. They have lives: work, families, hobbies, their own writing. Those heroes are putting their important tasks and loved ones aside for YOU. Aren’t they awesome? Let’s show them we’re deserving.
Please learn from my mistakes I’ve made and the mistakes I’ve seen made in many a manuscript.
1) Clean it UP!
Proofread BEFORE you send. Your critiquer isn’t your maid to clean up every little speck of dust you’ve left in the rug. Please use spell check. Make sure you read it through to fix those words spell check doesn’t catch. And if your grammar is poor, do the work BEFORE you send it out.
I’m guilty of this sin. When I first started writing, I thought my grammar was tighter than un-waxed dental floss. But I made the same errors over and over. I read a few grammar books. Then I took a grammar course. The rules started sticking! I still make mistakes. Which vs. That gets me sometimes, but at least I know to use a comma before which—not that.
And find out the rules about how dialogue is done. You don’t want to make your critiquer to spend all of their time hitting the return bar for you + playing around with commas and periods.
Here’s another sin I’ve committed. We all have demon words like: that, had, was, but, so. Whatever they are, do a find and replace. I find the demon word and replace the same word with all CAPS and an extra space, so a wiggly red line shows up. Then I will see each and every one. It’s easier to decide if they’re necessary or I need to reword.
2) Explain What YOU Need
Want plot holes covered so nobody falls to their death?
Should you be showing when you’re telling?
Has your story slowed down to school zone speed?
Are you throwing clichés around like (insert cliché here)?
Are your pages bogged down with minutia?
Are your blank-faced characters standing on a blank page?
Have characters who don’t stay true to character?
Does every character speak in the same exact voice?
Do your characters make it work or do they need some work?
Does the dialogue sound like anything people actually say?
Are tags creeping onto every spoken line like weeds?
Is it unclear which speaker is speaking?
Is the word said your BFF?
Are you so in love with your thesaurus that you want to marry it?
Is there a mundane action for Every. Single. Line. of. Dialogue?
Is the structure strong enough to hold your story up or is it crashing down?
Let your critiquer know what to look for. This way you’ll receive a critique tailored to your unique needs.
3) Keep Calm and Revise On
You’re going to receive the critique back.
Unless it’s been through a # of critiquers or you’ve magically created a clean manuscript
(I hate you.), expect some feedback
that (which?) will hurt.
You’re going to want to hit the delete button.
You’re going to want to argue with your
You’re going to dwell on every single negative bit written.
You’re going to gloss over the positive comments.
Instead of the impulse to argue,
Say, “Thank you.”
Let the manuscript stew… like your feelings.
Open the document back up after a few days.
You’ll feel like The Little Engine that Could.
And if you know in your gut you can’t—
If the manuscript truly has so many problems with structure, character, plot, and so on, that the whole 1,000,000,000k manuscript seems too broken to fix…
Take a deep breath.
Read the comments.
Keep them in mind.
Take what you’ve learned and write another manuscript.
Maybe you’ll revisit this hot mess in a year or five years.
That critiquer spent time, energy, and expertise to make you a better writer.
Keep calm and write on.
Have anything to add about what makes a good critiquee?
(Is critiquee even a word?)
Check out Sharon Mayhew's post about developing thick skin when receiving a critique: