Being a crit partner has to be easier then being a writer, right?
Personally, I don’t think so. Actually, I confess that when my friend asked me to crit her book I was utterly terrified. Click here to see what she thinks…
It started innocently enough, sending me the odd chapter asking me what I thought of it… it ended with me taking 2 days of work to spent a long weekend sitting in front a screen dissecting, analysing and editing a 74,000 word document.*
Here’s the thing, while I love reading, crit-ing is something else entirely.
So if someone asks you to crit their work here’s a few tips;
Make sure you have enough time to do it
You might be able to read a 500 page book in a day but trust me, crit-ing will take you a LOT longer.
Find out what your writer wants you to pay attentions to; characterisation, flow, descriptions, etc…
Without a guideline of what your looking for you could overanalyse the entire text and miss that big giant plot hole; because you were to busy finding an alternative for the word ‘murmur’.**
You have to be able to say, “This doesn’t work” or “I don’t like this”.
My friend handles criticism really well but that still didn’t stop me from panicking about it.
Once you tell them what you don’t think works; suggest an alternative!
Don’t forget what’s good
Crit-ing isn’t just about what’s wrong. It’s also about telling the author what you like.
Is it a certain character?
The world they’ve created?
Never forget to tell them about what you love. Every writer wants to hear that.
Read the whole thing
Sounds a bit obvious but what I mean is read the book consecutively, ideally in a short space of time. This will help you follow the story better. While I was crit-ing the final manuscript I noticed that there was an inconsistency in the story. One, which I never noticed before. ***
Write down your thoughts
Don’t worry if they aren’t important to the story. For example in one chapter the heroine struggles to get out of bed in the morning. I sympathised greatly with her because I’m not really a morning person either.****
It’s nothing to do with the story, (and my friend knows this about me already) but it gave her an insight into how I was feeling about the character at that time. I did this throughout the manuscript, personally I also think it makes it more fun for the person doing the crit.
Accept that the author has the final say
Not everything you comment on will get picked up. The author might read your suggestion but not agree with it. It’s their story so don’t get defensive about it. If you don’t like it, write your own.
You can do whatever you want in that…
If you don’t feel comfortable doing a crit, you have to say NO. Ask them to find someone else. If your heart isn’t in it, you won’t enjoy it and the end result won’t help the author either.
Just as every writer has their own style, so does every crit partner. You have to find the right match.
* Ok, that is a bit on the extreme side but I promised to get it back to her by a certain date and I never break a promise.
** My friend and I have this thing about the word ‘murmur’
*** I’d only read chapters over months before
**** Ok, I like morning but I take a while to get going…