Part 1 – What to do with a complete 1st manuscript?
Once my manuscript was complete I had several options:
Ask friends & family to read and provide feedback. I didn’t choose this option for a few reasons. Firstly, not many of my friends are huge fans of the genre, the ones that are would be far too polite to point out boring / weak parts to the story. Secondly, it felt awkward. What if they hated it? They would forever know that I’d spent a year writing something they believed to be utter tosh! This, they could either lie about or be honest, either way it could potentially ruin our relationship.
Join a local peer review circle / group. This would have been a good option, except in other walks of life I’ve found that sometimes ‘too many cooks can spoil the broth’. Many people, each with an opinion of their own could prove to be a bit overwhelming for a new author like me BUT the feedback would be both valuable and free.
Submit to a free review website – Again my thoughts were similar to the above but because of the online element, the reviewers are faceless and as such could be a little more brutal. Again being new, this could be a bit much. I’m sure there are fantastic reviewers out there but I have heard a few horror stories too.
Pay for a manuscript critique – Obviously my chosen option. I liked the idea of someone I didn’t know, approaching my work impartially in a professional capacity. My overall intention for the novel is to submit it to literary agents and publishers so it seemed like an idea that fit the mold. If I were to go direct to ebook I would perhaps have chosen a peer review option and gained feedback directly from my target audience.
There is obviously a cost implication of paying for a critique so to gain the full benefit, I would recommend taking the novel as far as you can personally then re-draft and edit it until you reach a point where you can’t take it any further yourself. I used Katherine KT Editing services for mine, she came recommended through someone on Twitter and responded to my initial enquiry quickly – I could tell immediately she knew her stuff (and a heck of a lot more than I know) she’s also very friendly and approachable which is important.
Part 2 – The feedback
I was both excited and a little nervous opening the feedback when it arrive but i needn’t have been. Katherine is very professional in her work, not only does she point out the strengths and weaknesses of your story, characters, dialogue, scenes and SPG; she also suggests improvements and resolutions. Some of the points raised confirmed doubts I had already but were unsure about and some (OK, many) highlighted problems I’d not even noticed. It was also great to know which bits she thought worked really well, as I can go back and review my style to see what techniques I could take away and use elsewhere.
I cannot stress how useful the feedback has been, Katherine has erected the scaffolding around my story and given me the tools needed to fix it.