Hello all aspiring authors (and even veteran authors). As many of you already know, one of the best things you can do for your writing is to get your work critiqued. Now that we have that established, I decided to list some of the different options you have when it comes to being critiqued. I honestly think that doing many of the different options will only help your story improve. Just remember your goal is to make your book shine before you start sending it off to agents or editors.
And yes! Critiques are hard to take. You’ve just spent weeks/months/years on your story. But remember that if you listen to feedback, you can create a better story. Now I don’t mean you need to make every single change anyone suggests. That would be bad. This is YOUR story and the best one to tell it is YOU. But if you listen to the feedback, you can see where your weaknesses lie, fix problem areas in your manuscript, and improve as a writer. (please note: this is just an overview , and I intend to go more in-depth in future posts.)
“Beta” Readers: This refers to those people who are the first to read your manuscript once you’ve finished it. This can be family, friends, coworkers, ect. The important thing to remember here is that you really want to get good feedback. If your sister is going to tell you how great your story is, you’ll want to also find another reader who will give you great insights on things you need to fix.
Critique Groups: The idea here is to find a group of people who write similar to you (ie: all focus on your target age or genre). This can be done either online or in person. When you meet often, you are able to get through more, and it also gives you a deadline to write for. A critique group can also be a great support system for you and your writing.
Whole Novel Reviews: Okay, so you’ve finished your novel – now what? This is the perfect moment to meet up with other writers who are in the same situation. Meaning they just finished a novel and need alpha readers. Set a deadline for everyone to send a complete manuscript to each other, and then set a time to meet. SCBWI offers a way for authors to exchange their writing. You can also try forming a group through social networks such as twitter.
Paid critiques/edits: Originally, this was considered a horrible idea. But with the recent flux in the publishing world, many editors found themselves out of a job and doing freelance editing. I would be really careful when you consider this, because many “book editors” don’t help, and they definitely aren’t a guarantee that your manuscript will sell. Remember that editing is subjective, to a degree. In most cases, editors – and even agents – want to be the one to shape your finalized manuscript so that it better fits the market and audience. But if you really feel you want to have an editor look over you manuscript, avoid the “book doctors.” Instead, look for someone with previous professional editing experience in the field you are looking to sell into. It’s also good if the editor has a policy that if they don’t think they can help improve your book, they will return it without charge. If you just want someone to look over it for editing, look for local college students who study in that area and have them look over your book — getting your grammar checked could actually be a great idea if you’re going to self-publish. Again, they key here is to BE CAREFUL! Mary Kole has a great post that goes into this subject in more detail: http://kidlit.com/2010/02/10/using-freelance-editors/
Conferences: There are some conferences where you can workshop your writing. Some conferences that are coming up soon and offer workshops of some sort can be found here:
Pet Writing Conference – http://www.petwritingconference.com/index.htm (very soon!)
LDStorymakers – http://www.ldstorymakers.com/bootcamp.php
Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers – http://foryoungreaders.com/
SCBWI LA conference- http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/2010-Summer-Conference (reg. opens April 28)
Backspace Writer’s Conference – http://www.backspacewritersconference.com/
Herald Underdown’s online class on revisions – http://www.kidsbookrevisions.com/
You can find a link to more conferences here: http://writing.shawguides.com/
Final Note: The best way to better your book is to get honest feedback from people who actually know what they are talking about. So good luck!