- Revise big stuff first, make small edits later. This doesn’t mean you should not correct obvious typos and grammar errors as you notice them. However, you shouldn’t be actively tinkering with word choice until after you’ve nailed down the structure of your piece.
- Put the manuscript down and walk away. Writers need at least a little distance from their manuscripts before jumping into revision.
- Scan the whole manuscript without reading. Scanning can make big problems more obvious than a writer might not notice when reading closely.
- Read carefully. Take your time and read every word. Then, read it out loud. This will help you catch obvious errors and check for smoothness or the “flow.”
- Look for ways to be more concise with your language. Can you turn a 15-word sentence into an 8-word sentence? Can you turn an 8-sentence paragraph into a 5-sentence paragraph? Less almost always means more for the reader.
- Use active voice over passive voice. There may be occasions for using passive voice, but for the most part be active.
- Vary sentence structure. Even if it’s grammatically correct, using the same pattern over and over again will make your manuscript boring. Don’t feel like you have to be creative with every sentence; just check that you’re not falling into a monotonous pattern.
- Save each round of revisions as its own file. Saving these files provides a record of your changes and shows your development of the story.
- Have someone read the manuscript. The more eyes the better, because they’ll be more objective when reading. It is always best to ask someone other than a relative, who naturally will be biased.
- Print the manuscript for a final edit. There are things you’ll catch on paper that you won’t on the screen.
Tag Archives: critique
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Have you fallen asleep or put a book down because you found it boring? The story wasn’t moving fast enough; the characters seemed flat—not people, just cut-outs; you were left wondering where did this character come from? First, you put it down as poor editing—you’re right. That’s only half of it—it’s really poor writing. The editor was “trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”, so to speak. That doesn’t happen often. More than likely, it was a self-published book that was not properly edited.
It is not my intention to damn self-publishing. Far from it—it is the only sure way for an author to get a work into print. It is cheap and fast and, with a little work, it can be as good as any work published by “the Big Six”. The operative phase here is “with a little work”. This goes beyond an attractive cover and a nice picture of the author. This means having, usually paying, a professional editor to work over your writing. This editor must look at and beyond grammatical and spelling errors (those should have been caught by the author). This editor will analyze the story arc, character development and make sure everything is brought to a final, believable conclusion. A final note—a spouse, a parent or other relative rarely makes a good final editor. This editor should be unbiased by relationship or friendship.
Guide for a Good Manuscript Critique
Posted on August 18, 2012 by Joan Y. Edwards
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 be able to tell easily what you think. You want to give them both ways to correct and ways to enhance the manuscript. Here are ways that will guide you and insure you give a good critique.
When you critique a manuscript, make your notes stand out:
• Put in blue text at least three Blue Ribbon passages or highlight in blue – my name for words, sentences, phrases, paragraphs, or scenes that are especially well-written. In this particular manuscript, these parts win First Prize – the Blue Ribbon.
• Put in red text, highlight in yellow, 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!
• Note punctuation and grammar errors.
• Point out where the writer needs to show, not tell. SHOW, DON’T TELL.
• Write questions in the manuscript when you think of them.
• Or do your own thing. Be creative.
Write the following questions at the beginning of the manuscript you’re about to critique. It will help you focus on the story’s strengths, as well as give the author places that need enrichment. If you’re the author, ask yourself these questions about one of your own manuscripts.
23 Questions for a Critique
After reading a manuscript, answer these questions.
1. What does the main character want?
2. What was he willing to do to get it?
3. What kept the main character from getting what he wanted?
4. Does he get what he wants? How?
5. What are the mistakes that the main character makes?
6. What are his flaws? (He’s got to have flaws.)
7. What is the lowest point in the story?
8. Did the main character change? How?
9. What does the main character learn about life from his experiences in this story?
10. Do you know what each main character wants?
11. Does each main character have a distinct voice of his own?
12. Can you tell when a different character is talking?
13. What do you want to know that the writer is not telling you?
14. Does it make sense? If not, note in the manuscript which parts that don’t make sense.
15. Does the main character face his conflict or run away?
16. Does the main character save himself by human means or is he saved with unbelievable circumstances that seems like magic?
17. Mark where writer needs to show, don’t tell.
18. Can you write a short summary of the story? Do it.
19. What are three main errorsmain punctuation and grammar errorsfor the author to correct?
20. Point out any pet words that the author uses over and over again? A thesaurus might have other words to use in place of them.
21. What are three Blue Ribbon passages?
22. What questions come to mind as you read the manuscript?
23. After reading the story, can you write a short (25-100 word) summary? Do so. If not, tell the parts of the story that are missing.
I wish you great success in your writing career. Thanks for reading this blog post. I am honored by your presence here. Please leave a message in the comment area. I’d love to hear your ideas on how to give a good critique.
Never Give Up!
Joan Y. Edwards