Inspiration Station: Reading A Friend’s Manuscript

Reading a Friends Manuscript

 

How many of you have been asked by your close friend to read their manuscript and give them feedback on it? I’m sure many–if not all–of us have.

My sister Kris writes and we read each other’s stories all the time. Sometimes we read them when they’re finished, other times we read scenes at a time in case we need different opinions in the middle of writing.

When Kris reads my stories, she always has something decent to say about it. When I read her stories, I tell her, “that was good. I want to read more.”

She stares at me blankly expecting more, but I never know what else to say. I’ve never been good at editing, even for my own stories. The very first time I started editing I only looked for typos and such. It was hard for me to look at my plot more deeply, to see how well the characters developed through the story, if everything made sense, etc. I thought it would all kind of work it out in a way all on its own. Well, it actually doesn’t work that way.

It wasn’t until I joined my writing group that I got a deeper understanding of what it really means to edit your novel… and how to help others edit theirs.

So what do you do? What do you say? Certainly not this:

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

The picture explains what not to do: Snow White isn’t asking the right question (did you like it, yes or no?) and she’s already getting frustrated. Well, if she’s this fruatrated now then we know she’s not going to handle negative feedback very well which is essential to being a writer. Pinocchio knows this which is why he’s afraid to speak the truth and his nose is giving him away. If he didn’t like the story, what could he say?

Constructive Feedback:

When reading through a manuscript, whether it’s a close friend or someone else, you should always say something positive and something negative. The positive comments will help them see what readers like and what they do well in. The negative comments will help them improve certain areas.

Most of you may have heard of the feedback sandwich. It’d be good for Pinocchio to know that when critiquing, you should start off with a positive comment about the story, the bottom bun of the sandwich. Then go into some negatives; what needs improving, what didn’t seem to work with the story, etc. That’s the middle of the sandwich; hamburger, deli meat, what have you. Then top it off with another bun with more positives about it.

I find that to be the most effective way to do it. Ease in with good and ease out with good.

Writerly Questions:

Let’s look at Snow White’s point of view. It’s never good to get angry with people who are trying to help you. With that being said, she shouldn’t be looking for bland answers to vague questions such as, “did you like my story?” They can say yes or they can say no, but they won’t tell you why.

You need to be specific.

When handing out your manuscript to others, it should always be after you’ve already done an edit. That way you have a good sense of what might need tweaking.

Is your main character taking a different path than intended? Ask your reader if they like the main character. Is he/she enjoyable to read about? Is he/she likable? Do you think the story works with that specific character in charge?

If there’s a plot hole in the story, see if they can find it. Ask them opinions on how to fix it. Is it a big hole or a small one? Can it be overlooked as a loophole? (Because let’s be honest; we all fudge it sometimes.)

In order to get the most out of your beta-readers, you need to tell them how to help you. Ask specific questions and when they read the story, they’ll hopefully have an answer for you.

Critiquing:

Back to Pinocchio. What can you do or say when reading a friend’s manuscript? If the writer didn’t ask specific questions, what kind of aspects of the story can you touch upon?

–Does the opening of the story hook you?
–Is the plot clear and believable?
–Do you share the main character’s emotions and care about what happens to him/her?
–Can you “hear” the dialogue in the story?
–What is the strongest point in the story? What is the weakest?

There are so many aspects of a story that you can look deeper into. One can talk a lot about the main character of a story–both good points and bad about him/her. That could be an entire critique itself.

So, remember: don’t be like Snow White and Pinocchio. When reading and critiquing, remember to be kind and honest. When receiving the critique, have a cool head and remember that ultimately the last decision is yours to make; it’s your story.

Writing Prompt:

Not exactly a writing prompt, but close enough… Take a deeper look at your current work in progress and think of some questions about the story that you feel might need tweaking. Try answering them yourself or tuck them away safely for your future beta-reader.

Related Articles:

5 Keys to Giving Constructive Writing Critiques
Checklist for Critiquing a Novel
How to Critique a Manuscript

Birthday Weekend

Friday: Friday seemed like a long day. I was anxiously awaiting to get out of work not only for the weekend, but so I could get to my friend’s house. My friend had a baby about a month ago and I was just meeting the baby for the first time. It was a good afternoon because I got to hold a baby (it’s been a long time) and I got to see my friend. I haven’t seen her since her baby shower back in November. I have school and work to thank for that.

Friday night I came home and worked on my writing group’s critiques. They were due Saturday morning, so I naturally left them until the last minute. It’s funny how deadlines creep up on you.

Saturday: I had my first writing group meeting. Technically was the second one, but Kris and I missed the first due to a prior commitment. We were nervous, but it went really well. Including the two of us, there’s seven of us total. Small, but I like it that way. It was good to have my work being read and critiqued by others than family. I got great feedback, both positive and negative. The next step is to edit that part again so I can edit the second part and send that for next month.

My cousin had a birthday party to go to so I went with my mom to drop her off and then we were food shopping. For once, we finished shopping in a timely manner and then had an hour to kill while we waited for my cousin’s party to be over. Once we got home, my mom thought it would be a good idea to go out to dinner. Kris and my dad didn’t feel like going, so Mom and I went to Panera. I was barely home on Saturday and wasn’t able to get anything done I originally planned. However, I spent the majority of the day with my mother (and we don’t get a lot of time to do that often) so it was good.

That night we gave my mom her birthday gifts early. We got her a Blu-Ray player and a new iPad. So I think she was pretty content.

Sunday: It was my mother’s birthday, plus Palm Sunday. So we went to church, which was extra long because the service was an extra half hour and then the Sunday school kids had their annual Easter egg hunt. We ended up being at church for an extra hour.

I took my Spanish quiz (that again, I left until the last minute) and then we went out to dinner. There was 11 of us for dinner and the waitress was slow and not very good, so we were there for a little while. We went to The Outback, so I can’t complain–the food is always awesome.

Then we went back to my house for cake for Mom’s birthday.

Overall, it was a great weekend. Busy, but relaxing at the same time.

This Week: I need to outline a bit more for my Camp NaNo novel. Camp starts in two days. With that being said, I need to finish my homework in a timely manner. Plus, I need to work on my Detective Florence manuscript for my writing group.

April is going to be a busy month; especially when it comes to writing. I hope I’m able to get a routine down and stick with it–even if it’s just for the month.

How was your weekend?

Update This And Update That

I Have Important Things To Say….

 

I have no idea where to start! I have a lot to say and I don’t know if I’m going to remember it all. I had Starbucks today and I am extremely wired! Seriously, ask my sister…and my mother…I was bothering them both. Singing, dancing, making weird noises, walking funny, yelling, laughing, falling on the floor, being loud…true story.

ANYWAY, I have three things to talk about…at least that’s all I can remember that I had to talk about…

First, Spilled Ink is back up for business. About two years ago, my sister and I started a writing website. Life got in the way and we kind of let it die. However, we wanted to get back into it so we made a new website for it. We came up with some new ideas for it, kept some old ideas and scrapped the rest of the old ideas. We hope the website grows a lot and is very successful.

Let me tell you a little about it: There are prompts, tips, writing races, co-authoring, and a role-playing section. There’s a place where members can review and discuss books they have read. Also, each member has their own board where they can post their own stories and other people can review the stories. You know, give feedback and critique. The link is on the Come Find Me page of this blog, but here it is again: Spilled Ink. Please go check it out and if you like, go ahead and join. We’d love to have you. 🙂

Next, I was thinking of adding more to this blog. My sister gave me this idea a while ago and I have been thinking of doing it ever since. I just never got the chance to actually do it. I was thinking about it more today and I think I’m going to really do it. However, I want to get your opinions anyway. So, if you don’t mind, please comment on whether you would enjoy this and want me to do this: once a month, I was thinking of doing a volg (video blog, for those of you who don’t know). So, once a month instead of posting words, you’d get to hear it straight from my loud mouth. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I don’t know when I would actually start doing this, but I thought I would throw it out there and see if you guys would like that or not. Of course, if the majority of you say no I may do it anyway. 😀

Third, I guess I should update about my actual writing, huh? I have been writing bit by bit each day since my last post. Since my last post I have written 7,659 words on Take Over. I plan on writing a little more tonight, but I probably won’t get the chance to update this later tonight and tell you all how wonderful I have been doing with my writing! I’ve been a good girl lately. 😀

I guess I do have more to talk about…fourth, my sister and I went to Barnes and Noble today (hence the Starbucks). We were looking at writing books when we were supposed to be writing. I have been thinking a lot about my future lately and I decided that it’s time that I really start looking for publishers. I have two children’s books written and ready to leave the nest. So I found one of those books that lists publishing companies, agencies, magazines, etc. I wrote down a few publishing companies that represent picture books. So, while I finish Take Over, edit Hunter and Diary of a Lover, and write Saving Each Other for Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ll be sending my two picture books off to publishers.

Also, Writer’s Digest sent me a thing in the mail about their annual writing contest. I’ve done it before (and lost, obviously), but that was two or three years ago. I think I’m going to try to do it again this year. I think I’m going to send in a poem. I don’t write poems often, although I would like to. I wasn’t going to bother with the contest again this year, but the other day, in math class of all places, I thought of a poem idea. I think that was my inner muse saying, “Do the Writer’s Digest contest!” Because seriously, when do I come up with poem ideas?

Anyway, that’s that. Send my picture books to publishers, polish off my young adult novels, prepare for Camp NaNo, finish Take Over, do the contest…I have a lot on my plate right now. But I like it. I have wanted to be an author since I was ten and I finally want to get started on it. Meanwhile, I’m going to promote myself as much as possible. So follow me on here, on Twitter (the link is also on the Come Find Me page), and on my other Spilled Ink website. Then sit back and watch me succeed. Because I’m going to make it no matter what. 🙂

 

2013: 72,855/365,000 Words Written
2013: 1,749/18,250 Pages Read

Three Down

Three Chapters Done…

 

I’m still writing The Blank Page. I don’t know how many chapters this novel is going to be. I’m on chapter four, I haven’t started it, though. I do think that for chapter four I’m going to have them all read what they have so far. Not all of it, of course. But it should be an interesting chapter. Justin hates everything that Adair does, Adair critiques and does everything and anything to bother Justin, and poor Dominic is there just wanting some real feedback on what he has so far.

It’ll be in a tough chapter to write because I know what Dominic’s plot is, but I haven’t even thought once about Adair’s novel or Justin’s novel. This chapter is going to be a long haul, but that’s part of the reason as to why I’m planning this chapter to be like this. If I’m going to write about three people writing three different novels, I need to know what each novel is about and how each novel is going to turn out. I’m sure whoever reads this series would like to know, as well.

In the last post I mentioned how I was thinking about writing their novels. Well, I think more on it now and I realize that if I wrote those three novels right now, it would certainly help me write The Blank Page and the rest of the series. I will already know the plot, the characters, the beginning, the middle, and the end. But, I’ll wing it for now. That is what editing is for, right?

So I set my timer for an hour once more and again I stopped before the timer went off. I stopped because I finished chapter three and I wasn’t really looking forward to writing a little of chapter four for three minutes and stopping right in the middle of it. Of course, I could have written more, but I wrote a lot today. I made it to 11,010 words. If I wrote another 281 words, then I would have broken my word count for day seven. This fake NaNo thing is really working out for me. It’s too bad that the real NaNo didn’t work out for me. But then again, I got pretty far in that novel and I did finish it in December, so I guess I can’t really complain.

That’s all for today. I may write a little bit more today, but I do doubt it. I have a few other things that I need to get done and I just have to say thank God it’s the weekend. I don’t have work today, which is a plus because that means I don’t have anywhere important to be later.

See you tomorrow! 🙂

 

2013: 11,010 Words