17 December 2010

How to get feedback on your manuscript

So you have finished your first draft (just like me) and now are getting ready to take it to the next level (a.k.a. second draft - I'm still letting my MS ripen)?
Have you thought of getting feedback on the quality, sellability, brilliantability  brilliantness of your manuscript?
I have, and I have also thought about how to get it done.

Here's 9 ways of getting feedback on your manuscript:

1. Join a writers' group, whether in real life or online. One of my favourite writing communities Chapter79 has a few sub-fora dedicated to novels.

2. Enrol onto a writing course; there are several writing courses available online and in the real life; I've done Fiction Writing with Writers' News; but there are many out there, including university courses (at some point I thought about enrolling on OU Creative Writing course.
Downside: they can be expensive and of variable quality; I would suggest checking the reputation within the writing community before investing any money.

3. Join in one of the feedback sites, like YouWriteOn, Critique Circle, Authonomy or have a look at NaNoWriMo Critique, Feedback and Novel Swaps forum.
The downside: you may discover that not all reviewrs are as thourough and honest as you would like them to be.

4. Pay for a professional manuscript assessment and editorial advice. Again, there are many agencies and individuals who offer this kind of service, use Google and recommendations by your writing friends. I have read a lot of positives about Cornerstones and The Literary Consultancy; Joanna Penn used The Novel Doctor)
Downside: expensive

5. Find a critique partner. I have found one thanks to RWNZ critique partner scheme. If you are a romance writer, have a look at eHarlequin Community site - there is a thread for writers seeking a critique partner.
Read an interesting post on What makes a good crit buddy.
Downside: can't think of any, once you've found a good match!

6. Use Beta readers (like Joanna Penn).
Downsides: Anyone knows of any?

7. Join a reputable writing organisation, like Romantic Novelist Association, Romance Writers of Australia, or any other, preferably in your favourite genre; many of them have contests (e.g. Golden Heart by RWA, or The Clendon Award for members of RWNZ), schemes (e.g. fantastic New Writers' Scheme by RNA) or critique groups, which offer the members opportunity to receive feedback on their manuscript.
Downsides: it can be expensive, but my RWNZ membership is my best invested money in 2010.

8. Send your manuscript to a contest.
Keep your eyes open - there are many of them. Choose those which will send back the feedback sheets to you, so even if you don't win the contast, you win the feedback.
I have sent my work in progress to Strictly Single and Get your Stiletto in the Door and although I didn't win, or even got to the second round, I have recieved lots of invaluable feedback (interestingly most judges agreed on what's good and what needs more work).
If you win/get shortlisted you may (or may not, as Scott Eagan points out on his blog) even get a request for a partial/full or The Call!
Downsides: can be expensive

9. If you feel your novel is perfect (or near perfect) submit your manuscript to the chosen agent or publisher.
The upside - if it's brilliant, you may get a publishing deal.
The downside - if it's crap not so brilliant, you are unlikely to receive any feedback at all.

Whichever way your choose, make a good use of the feedback. Read it (and reread as many times as you wish as I have done with mine), but let it rest for a while and then come back and think again. Here is a piece of advice on handling conflicting critiques..
If it feels right, follow the advice, it if doesn't - don't.

Good luck!


  1. Great tips on getting feedback for your manuscript. I am stepping up my efforts in the coming year and I definitely want to find a critique partner or two. I know it can be a long process to find a good one, but definitely worth it.

  2. thanks, Raleigh.

    as for finding a critique partner: what was really helpful for me it the scheme ran by Romantic Novelist of NZ together with Romantic Writers of Australia (I live in NZ). They have a register of writers looking for crit partners with lists of strenghts and areas for improvement, as well as preferred genres and writing sample. I've found the register very helpful - helped me identify possible matches very quickly. and then it was 'trial and error'.

  3. a good collection of valuable tips - thanks for that. I have just embarked upon the quest for the agent...

  4. thanks, Fiona.
    the quest for the agent? I'm nowhere near that. It's a biggie. for me and good luck with that. Are you going to share your experience on your blog?

  5. I've done each one of these except join a feedback site. The Wild Rose Press has great loops for new writers to find critique partners. I found one of mine there. Through RWA (Romance Writer's of America) PRO loop I found a freelance editor to do a profession copy edit. PRO is easy to join (all you need is a few rejection letters and a completed manuscript). And the loop is excellent. When I entered GH I asked to have that manuscript used to qualify me for PRO and I mailed the rejection letters separately. Another great idea is investigating Brenda Novak's online auction early each May. Dozens and dozens of authors, editors, and agents offer critiques for bid. It's how I got my agent!!! Good luck!

  6. (hm... I don;t quite understand that - I couldn't see Wendy's comment for hours until now = 22.46)

    Wendy - thank you for the tips abotu RWA and Brenda Novak's auction - will keep an eye on it.

    I've been thinking about joining in RWA PRO, but still need this few rejections...