Hey, morally gray besties! I hope you're having a great week. This week I wanted to take a deep dive into what a manuscript critique is and how to get the most out of it.
What is a Manuscript Critique?
A manuscript critique is a fresh set of professional eyes on your manuscript. Typically editors or other authors in the publishing space offer these services. It provides feedback on your manuscript from someone who understands the current industry and genre standards. Everyone does it a bit differently, but my manuscript critiques come with a letter addressing strengths and weaknesses, any sensitivity issues, and a general critique of anything I found. These are helpful while you're in the self-editing phase of your writing.
This critique gives you a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript. The editor assesses things like character development, plot progression, themes, tone, and style. They also assess genre expectations and general reading experience. They give more personal feedback as any other reader may give in a review. This gives you an idea of how your work is being received by professionals in your chosen genre.
How is it Different Than a Beta Read?
Functionally, a beta read is very similar. The things they're looking for are the same and they give similar feedback. The difference is beta readers typically aren't professionals and normally aren't paid. Typically, you can ask people you know or possibly someone in a beta reading forum to read your book and provide feedback. Their feedback is typically more focused on how they perceived the manuscript as a general reader. When you hire someone to do a manuscript critique, you're paying for their expertise in the genre and industry
When Should You Get a Manuscript Critique
This doesn't really have a specific answer. It depends on your writing methods. In my opinion and experience, these are best after you think you're done with any self-editing you've done but before you give it off to an editor. This will look at things you may have missed or how your book is perceived after you've finished editing to see where you need to go from there. Maybe you've missed something big and need to go back and do a lot of edits or maybe it's great and it's ready for the next stages of editing. This is the best time to figure out what's needed.
If you get a manuscript critique after a line edit or copy edit, and the person doing it points out a large plot error, you may have to go back and re-write sections that have been edited or delete things you paid to have edited. That turns that service into a waste of money and time, and you may need to get a line or copy edit again. However, if you realize it may need a sensitivity read or if you're looking to figure out how to market your book, getting a manuscript critique later in the process could be helpful. For example, if you're not sure what tropes you should market or subgenres you should market to, a manuscript critique could point out these tropes, themes, and subgenres that would be good to highlight to market to the right readers. In the same vein, if you're writing about a sensitive topic or a culture you're not a part of, getting a critique about those themes can ensure you're not writing anything offensive or incorrect. They can also help point out trigger warnings you may have been unaware of and should warn your readers about. If this is the kind of reading you're looking for, be sure to do your research about the person you're hiring. If your worried about sensitivity, make sure you're finding someone who's a part of that culture, gender, sexuality, etc.
How to Use Your Critique
So you've gotten your critique back, now what? This again depends on your purpose for getting one. If you're getting one to assess your strengths and weaknesses to continue self-editing, just keep going. Read the critique and figure out if you agree or disagree. Like a developmental edit, manuscript critiques are subjective, so some of the feedback may not fit your vision, and that's okay. BUT, know these critiques aren't meant to tear you down or tell you you're writing is bad, the goal is to make your work better. Evaluate whether the note doesn't fit your vision, or if you may just be taking the critique in a negative light. It can be hard sometimes, especially if there are a lot of notes and you didn't expect it, but know it's always meant to improve your writing and never a personal attack. Once you've reviewed the critiques, go back to the editor and ask any questions and schedule a phone call (if that's something they offer) to talk through their critiques and clear up any misunderstandings. From there, go back to applying the edits!
If you're looking for more sensitivity reading or marketing assessments, look through their comments and see what they said. Read the comments they made and make sure you understand what their saying, especially with any cultural references. Make notes and questions and check with the editor or reader about what they said and go back and ask questions to clarify. This can again come off hurtful especially if they point out something that may have been offensive. Keep in mind it's not a personal attack and it's all about improving your writing and awareness of your subject matter.
I hope this helps on your writing journey! Please let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this or found it helpful. I'm hoping to post more tips, book recs, and editing advice in the future, so make sure you sign up for email notifications to learn more! Be sure to share with any of your friends who might be looking to get a critique.