Some Dos and Don’ts For Critiquing The Middle Draft In It To Win It Writer

Do

  • Dig into dialogue, character’s actions and overall consistency of the character. 
  • Check manuscripts of internal consistency with the established sequence of events
  • Audit the overall flow of the manuscript and the small scale flow from scene to scene.
  • Dig into the writer’s chosen language, grammar, style, and phrasing.
  • Overall impressions. How as a reader one enjoys the manuscript or where as a reader the manuscript drags and needs tightening.
  • Tackle anything specific the writer asks for.

Don’t

Nothing is off the table at this point in time the writer is preparing to move out of critique phase and into a professional editorial, a submission, or a publishing phase.  Critique partners should give the writer everything they can (that’s within the bounds of what the writer asks for).

Some Dos and Don’ts For Critiquing The First Draft Sneak Peak Writer

Do

  • Make all the same comments offered for the “share and share alike” writer
  • Evaluate the tone of the work.  Is it consistent?  Does it compliment the story?
  • Along with tone and pacing, now is a good time to start notes on tension.  Is there tension?  What kinds of tension are represented?  Is it well balanced?
  • Evaluate the themes in the manuscript.  Are there any themes, are they obvious?  How are they expressed and do they enhance the story? 
  • Tackle anything specific the writer asks for.

Don’t

  • Dig into grammar.  The specific words and framing will change significantly between now and a final draft.  Grammar edits is a waste of a critique partner’s time at this point.
  • Over focus on awkward phrasing.  Critique partners may wish to begin addressing some passages of awkward phrasing in stronger passages, but if a segment looks as a whole is weak for other reasons, focus on tackling those larger story elements first.
  • Consistency of timeline.  While helpful to make some basic notes regarding the time flow, first drafts are a time to figure out when things should happen in a manuscript.  Keep critique to helping settle the timeline before auditing it’s overall continuity.

Some Dos and Don’ts For Critiquing The Share And Share Alike Writer

Do:

  • Point out what works.  What’s clever, what’s funny, what’s emotional.  Celebrate the wins.
  • Point out areas the manuscript wanders.  Are their places the writer shared too much or dropped in exposition?  Help find alternatives.
  • Identify core components—characters, plot, theme(s), and pacing.  Provide any thoughts one has in regards to their current state and avenues for further development.
  • Tackle anything specific the writer asks for.

Don’t

  • Dig into grammar.  The specific words and framing will change significantly between now and a final draft.  Grammar edits is a waste of a critique partner’s time at this point.
  • Highlight awkward phrasing.  Same reasons as above.
  • Tone.  Same reasons as above.

4 Kinds of Writers’ and When They Share Their Work

When signing up to be a critique partner, it’s important to consider where in process a writer may be and tailor the advice to where they are and what their goals are. Today we’ll go over 4 kinds of writers I’ve discovered and some characteristics that may help us dig deeper into where they are coming from.

The Share and Share A Like Writer

  • In process with a first draft. 
  • May be excited to share something.
  • May be stuck and looking to bounce ideas.
  • May still be working out the characters/concept/elements of the manuscript.
  • Probably has minimal editing or polish—and is not in a place to receive major refining feedback

The First Draft Sneak Peek

  • The manuscript has a beginning, middle, and ending.
  • May have a vague sense of short comings in the work and need help pinning them down.
  • May have an acute sense of short comings in the work and need brainstorming to correct.
  • May be “too close” to the manuscript and seek the distance of fresh eyes.

The Middle Draft In It To Win It

  • The 2nd or the 72nd iteration of a work.  Writers have completed major story building aspects of a manuscript and are working on polish.
  • Major structural edits are complete.  The order of the manuscript and all the major scenes are settled.
  • Character arcs are set and ready for review.

The Hybrid Writer

  • May or may not have a complete manuscript.  
  • The manuscript has some level of polish and revision, but the writer is not able to move on yet, they are in a seeking or consideration process.
  • Most easy to identify this manuscript because of it’s inconsistently applied polished some section will be in progress, others will be a first draft stage, while other sections may appear as a finalized manuscript.

What do you think? Do these groups cover all the different kinds of writers you know? Are there other traits your recognize or other details you think critique partners should look for?

Stay tuned and next week we’ll go further in depth with suggestions for what to critique or not for each of these stages of writing!

Open Calls For Submission In May

May 1st

 Brewtality: Alcohol Infused Extreme Horror: 3,000 word max “Some call it courage in a bottle while others perceive it as the devil’s cocktail. Alcohol comes in all shapes and sizes, bringing along with it the temptation of sin, the eagerness of confusion and the psychological bombardment on the mind and senses forcing us to play a game between life and death.” pays $.03/word

May 5th

Impulsive Walrus Press, “Going Viral”: 2,000-8,000 words theme is black market business during Covid-19 pandemic “The COVID-19 quarantine has us all shut up in our homes. Businesses have ground to a halt, the economy is slowed to a snail’s pace, and nobody is entirely certain how long it is going to last./ In the middle of all of this, black market businesses have begun to operate: underground hair salons, photography studios, businesses once completely legitimate and now illegal simply for operating.” pays $.02/word

May 31st

One Story: 3,000-8,000 words literary fiction pay is $500

Dark Moon Digest, “Fright Nights”: 3,500 words max “We want stories with complex characters and new ideas. Scare us. But also, inspire young readers into a lifelong obsession with the genre .” $.03/ word

Critique Partner vs Beta Reader

  • Both will provide feedback on a manuscript 
  • A beta reader doesn’t have to be a writer. They evaluate a manuscript strictly from a reader’s perspective.  They may earmark an area of concern (like a critique partner) but they may lack the toolkit to help suggest corrections.  It’s best to give a beta a middle draft or final draft for evaluation, since this will be closest to the product readers consume and they provide an early view of how a larger group of readers will react. 
  • Critique partners, as fellow writers, are available to help trouble shoot during more phases of a writing process and are able to better evaluate what the concern areas might be along with solutions.

What is a Critique Partner?

A critique partner is a writer with whom one shares and critiques work on a regular basis. This process isn’t the same as co-write stories, because the manuscript isn’t written by both writers, but they should have overlapping ideas and motifs.  A critique partner often influences one’s writing in ways beyond the feedback shared because they can be a person one springboards ideas or troubled areas off of.  They have an inherent understanding of the writing process, which makes them able to offer specialized insights others may lack.

It’s common for writers to become each other’s critique partners, where the two writers exchange manuscripts for feedback.  Because the writer is often both the person receiving feedback as well as providing it, this series attempts to cover both sides of the giving/responding to feedback process.

Feedback is Not a Review

  • Whether a writer needs a critique partner or a beta reader, they are a trusted person within a writer’s circle.
  • They speak directly to a writer where a review speaks to other readers.  
  • They should treat a writer’s work with respect.  Acknowledge wins and suggest correction when pointing out areas to improve.
  • If one can’t provide constructive criticism, it’s appropriate to thank a writer but explain the manuscript isn’t for you.  No further explanation is required.

Open Calls for Submission in April

April 15th

Transulunar Traveler’s Lounge: 5,000 words “A fun story, at its core, is one that works on the premise that things aren’t all bad; that ultimately, good wins out. ” pays $.03 a word

April 30th

Kyanite Publishing “Visions and Darkness”: 7,500-20,000 words dark fantasy pays royalties

Soteira Press “A Monster Told Me Bedtime Stories”: 500-7,500 words “We’re looking for horror stories about bedtime, dreams, sleep, and nighttime in general! ” pays royalties

Pole to Pole Publishing “Twenty Thousand Leagues Remembered“: 3,000-5,000 words pays $.02 a word

Critique partner vs beta reader

  • Both will provide feedback on a manuscript 
  • A beta reader doesn’t have to be a writer. They evaluate a manuscript strictly from a reader’s perspective.  They may earmark an area of concern (like a critique partner) but they may lack the toolkit to help suggest corrections.  It’s best to give a beta a middle draft or final draft for evaluation, since this will be closest to the product readers consume and they provide an early view of how a larger group of readers will react. 
  • Critique partners, as fellow writers, are available to help trouble shoot during more phases of a writing process and are able to better evaluate what the concern areas might be along with solutions.