On Editing: Asking a Friend to Critique Your Novel

Yesterday I talked about what you should do if a friend asks you to critique their novel.

But what should you do when you ask a friend to critique your novel?

You’re not the reader this time around, you’re the writer. There’s a lot more to prepare for your novel–and yourself–when you decide to share your world with others.

On Editing: Asking a Friend to Critique Your Novel

Are you ready to show your novel to others?

Writing comes with a lot of self-doubt. You ask yourself so many questions every day you sit down to write:

“Who would want to read my story?”
“Does this even make sense?”
“My writing is terrible, my characters are flat, and the plot is ridiculous. Why did I decide to do this?”

Before you think about giving your novel to friends, family, beta-readers, or editors, make sure you’re absolutely ready to reveal your work to them.

  • Have you self-edited the book yourself a few times?
  • Do you feel confident enough to share your work with others?
  • Do you think you’ve done all you can, but still know there are some weak points in the book and you need another opinion?

You can’t write a novel and send a first draft to beta-readers and expect them to “fix it” for you. Remember, this is your story. You wrote it, you created it, final decisions are up to you.

Know your story inside and out.

If you’re looking for suggestions and you’re not sending your novel out to beta-readers or editors yet, then take this one with a grain of salt.

But, you should know your story inside and out. Someone may say, “This part doesn’t make sense.” Your answer probably shouldn’t be, “Oh, yeah. Well, I didn’t know where that part was going so that’s why I threw the ninja in. No one saw it coming. Clever, right?”

Of course, as writers our outlines change or we write blind. Fellow writers will understand that kind of comment and help you come up with a solution and different scenarios. But a non-writer, a potential reader, may not get it.

When giving your novel out for feedback, you should have a good grip on the plot, characters, and overall picture of the story. Questions will be asked and you should have a good answer.

When giving your novel to others to read and critique, have certain areas you would like them to look at. Is the main character likeable? Is there a certain scene you’re unsure about? Feel free to give them a list of critique questions to answer.

Who should you ask to read your story?

Anyone is a potential reader and there are a number of people you could ask to give you feedback on your novel.

  • Family members (writers or non-writers)
  • Friends (writers or non-writers)
  • Friends from your writer’s group
  • Blogger friends
  • Anyone else you can think of

No matter who you ask, though, their feedback will come with a certain amount of “baggage,” if you will.

Friends and family may hold back a bit since they don’t want to hurt your feelings. They’ll be supportive by praising you and telling you what they think you want to hear. It’ll definitely make you feel good, though.

Beta-readers, friends from your writer’s group, or anyone who writes will tell you like it is. In a nice way, of course, but you’ll have to be prepared for praise as well as some negative comments.

Remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Any feedback you receive, especially if it’s negative, is not said to hurt your feelings. Always remember that you have great ideas, you have a unique writing style, and you work very hard to accomplish your goals and dreams.

J.K. Rowling is rich and famous, but there are still people in the world who don’t like Harry Potter. Your book will be no different.

Your book may not be someone’s cup of coffee, but you will be someone’s favorite author one day.

How do you prepare your novel to be read by others? What experiences have you had giving your novel to others? Let me know in the comments below!

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8 thoughts on “On Editing: Asking a Friend to Critique Your Novel

  1. I prepare by getting someone usually my wife, to read after the first edit. She will then point out obvious flaws etc, then I better her suggestions. You can’t take it personally otherwise you shouldn’t bother at all. There will always be those that won’t like your work, just like you won’t like some authors work. It doesn’t stop them from writing so ot shouldn’t stop you.

    I’ve had my novel read in full by one of my Twitter followers and she enjoyed it, but I can’t seem to get anyone else to read it, despite my best efforts.

    • That’s what my sister and I usually do, yes. Also, that was very well said. You can’t please everyone, so just focus on making yourself happy.
      That’s good that one of your followers was willing to read it, but I’m sorry that you haven’t had luck with anyone else. What’s your novel about?

  2. I started out using friends as beta readers, but I don’t recommend it. They worry about hurting your feelings and thus the critique is sometimes too gentle. And then there’s the friend who thinks they can be as critical as they want because ‘you asked for it’. Hmmm…. there’s a difference between being critical and being mean. I now have my hubby read my work before I send it to my copy editor. Having a copy editor who doesn’t know me and isn’t afraid to ‘hurt my feelings’ helps a lot.

    • Yeah, there’s a fine line when it comes to asking friends for business help. Especially if they don’t write themselves, then they also don’t know how much work goes into it.
      At least you have a good system going it seems like. So that’s good!
      I usually have my sister look it over and my writer’s group.

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