Editing and Critiquing Your Manuscript

Any author will tell you: the editing process is brutal. Colaboracao2

Having your work critiqued is hard. You’ve given birth to something you perceive as a beautiful creation, something uniquely yours that came right out of your soul.

And then you hand it over, and people rip it to shreds, telling you that some things don’t make sense, that some things don’t work, that some things are flat and uninteresting.


But here’s the bottom line about being a writer: it’s hard frigging work.

Work, folks.

If your mechanic believed he knew what he was doing, even though he didn’t have a full grasp of mechanics, would you be happy with him under your hood?

Should he be confident that he’s sending you out into the world in the best possible way, even though he refuses to allow anyone to tell him that the parts he’s put together don’t actually go together?

It’s the same with your book. The parts need to go together, and because you have the full picture in your head, you may not be aware that a few of the puzzle pieces are in the wrong place, or missing altogether.

That’s where critique comes in.

You can get this in a variety of ways: go to a good writing group, one that is prepared to offer honest but constructive feedback. (on the good and the bad, not just the bad!) Get a Beta reader. Beta readers are people who read your novel because they want to, and who point out structural or character flaws you may have in the work–they are readers, basically, whose opinions you trust and can take on board to make your novel better.

One thing to remember: your Beta reader should not be someone you know–a friend or lover especially. People who care about us are less likely to give us the brutal feedback we need to make a story better, because they care about us and want to spare our feelings. Strangers, however, who understand what Beta reading is about, will have no such compunctions.

Another option is to hire an editor. There are tons and tons of freelance editors out there (I’m one) who will take on your project for pay. They’ll go over it with a fine toothed comb and red line the whole thing until it looks like there’s been a mass homicide right on top of your manuscript.

The good thing about a paid editor doing it is that you’ll get professional, hard-core feedback. The draw back is that you generally get a limited number of times to ask questions or have your changes reviewed before you have to pay them again. (It is their profession, after all).

The good thing with a Beta reader is that you can work with them for ages, fixing things over and over until the Beta thinks you’ve got it, and they’re generally doing it because they want to, not for any kind of repayment. The draw back is that they are not trained (usually) in editing or publishing, and so their advice can be a bit misleading if they’re placing their own bias on your work.

One thing is without question, though: you must have a thick enough skin to take the feedback to make your work better. NO ONE is a perfect writer. It’s a craft, and like any craft, it takes years and years of working at it to become truly good at it. Taking criticism and difficult feedback is part of being a good writer: and doing so with class and grace will get you respect and better readers.

So, toughen up, suck it up, and know that you’re writing, you’re a writer, and there are people out there who can help you become a great writer. But you must have enough sense to get past your own ego and allow their advice to penetrate.

It will make you a better writer.