Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Agatha Christie, Sep 4, 2012.
Offer to swap reviews. It seems to work on sites like Figment, haha. I'm sorry you have this problem! I'm sure there will be some people on this site that would read it for you.
On a different note, I've always heard that a reader is only as smart as the author allows them to be. If you wrote the twists well, the reader is probably smart enough to catch them and comprehend them. Give your readers some credit! I wouldn't worry about this at all.
Also, if a first reader stopped your book halfway through, is it possible you need to go back and edit and rewrite a few more times to get to the point where they might like the main character, or the novel would have enough turns during the first half to keep them hooked? Maybe you need to rework the first half before really getting any first reader reactions.
I hope all is well! Keep writing!
Surely if the first few pages of your book "hook" the reader, then they'd want to read more. I'm not an experienced member of this site or any "writing community", but surely you could post the first few pages, and say that anyone who wants to read more can PM you for the rest. That way you'd at least learn whether or not you've got a sufficiently engaging start to keep people reading.
What's your story about? Yeh novel swap would probably be the best - if you read fantasy, I need beta readers as soon as I finish editing (which should hopefully happen in another 2-3 months) and might be willing to swap depending on what your story's about.
The reason why nobody's offered is because reviewing a novel is a LOT of work, and tedious work too if you're not enjoying the story or if it's badly written, and the truth is even amongst writers we're not always sure what works and what doesn't, so asking a regular friend who doesn't even write gives him/her even less of a chance of being able to pick out anything useful (unless you know to ask very specific questions and even then sometimes your reviewer just doesn't know lol). I'm not really surprised no one's offered to review your novel, esp if you've offered nothing in return.
Alternatively, pay for an editor. I know there're tonnes of people on here who are adamantly against it (Cog and Mamma, two very experienced people for example!) but for myself, I've found the editor useful in the extreme because I'm writing my first novel - so my editor is my first reader of my first draft and he's been pointing out if something is unbelievable, not engaging, and also which parts got him hooked and the best part is, unlike a friend, since I'm paying him, he will read on even if there're long parts that aren't working yet! And despite what I've read on this site, I've heard that getting a professional edit actually boosts your chances 'cause then the agent thinks it'll involve less work (now how true that is, I have no idea - what I've read on this site says that a professional edit should LESSEN your chances 'cause it shows you're an amateur).
Or pay some of your friends to read - but if you're gonna pay, you might as well pay an editor. However of course, a friend would charge less.
Oh and if someone stopped reading half way through because he despised your MC, I think it's worth taking a look and seeing if you've actually done things right. Sounds like you may not have done.
Either way, what's your genre and outline? And as the above poster said, post the first page up for review and see if anyone PMs you for more.
It sounds like you need a writing buddy, someone who you can swap novels with so you can help each other. Have you suggested this sort of reciprocal relationship with anyone at your groups? Also, you mention book clubs but perhaps a writing group would be more helpful to you, as you will meet other people in the same situation. And I agree that someone being unable to finish your book because of a character is a useful piece of information assuming you respect the reader's opinion- an unlikeable character should probably make the reader want to carry on to see him get his comeuppance rather than stop reading altogether. Good luck!
thanks for responses so far. I did mean writing groups, not book clubs.
Free sample edit for up to 1500 words here, it says. I don't know the company or their reputation, but a free sample edit looks like a reasonable offer to me. Not that I know these things, but surely it would be fairly obvious if the editing service is valuable, even from looking at just a 1500 word sample.
I came along to remove the link, because I was told that links to fee based services are against the rules. However, it's been done for me. Thanks mod. I'll remember that in future.
if you don't mind saying, how much are you paying your editor to do all that?... and how qualified is he to do so?
I, personally, recommend having a beta reader (or anyone so can give you objective feedback) give it a go and having two rounds of edits prior to sending it to the editor. All an editor can do is help to improve what you send them. Do you should polish it up as nicely as you can before you pay people.
Another issue is that of need to make sure your editor is qualified to do the job. If their only experience is editing gardening books and you wrote a sci if novel, they might not be the best pick. If they put in ten years with St.Martins Press and now do independent editing, you might be on the right track.
Of course the garden book editor might be fabulous. The other editor might have been fired for being a terrible editor. It is difficult to find the right person and credentials only tell half the story. But if you're going to drop $800-$1000 on editing an MS, I'd rather bet on the horse that won a few races already.
Oh, AC - this is the $64K question. It is so hard to find compatible beta readers! I was going to suggest a writer's group but you said you were already in two of them. You could try asking on a couple other writers' sites (they don't allow beta reader requests on this site). What genre do you read and what is your novel generally about? I've been struggling with this myself, so I know how frustrating it is. I might have a couple now, but it was a struggle to find them and I still don't know if they'll work out. Keep looking, though!
I'd be leery of paying for an editor at this point, though. I'd like an editor, too, but I don't want to pay the $1500+ it will cost until I've had a few others look at my m/s and I'm pretty sure myself that it's in as good a shape as I can get it into myself, though. Also, especially with editors who advertise, you have no idea whether they are actually any good, or whether they are knowledgable about your genre, etc. The last thing you want is to pay money for someone who isn't especially knowledgable in or who even likes the type of stuff you like -- as it is, even for editors who like a particular genre, there are issues of taste and personal preference, versus actual story and writing mechanics, so you want to make sure the person you're paying knows what they're talking about.
I'm going to ask something that's not been asked so far Agatha. I've read some of your posts, and you obviously write mysteries, as your screen name implies. What is the word length of this novel you're attempting to have people give you a critique of? The reason I ask is that some of our forum goers may offer to read your novel, if your posts hook them.
If your main character is someone who is supposed to be such an unlikable character, there still has to be a reason to keep reading. I will quote something I've quoted before, but it fits here. Its by J K Rowling. If you don't care about what happens to your characters, you can't expect your readers to.
It is rare for the main character to be such a villain, or be the villain, and keep people reading to see what happens to them. There are lots of anti-hero stories, but usually they are stories where the villain is quite a bit worse then the anti-hero, and you root for them because they are better then the other choice.
I hope you haven't asked them on this site, because it is against the rules.
Asking someone to review an entire novel comes under the heading of a professional service. The reason we don't permit it is we have had repeated problems with members being harassed after generously agreeing to give it a read-through and "suggestions." Apparently, the requesters believed they had a free contract to a full edit.
In any case, the critique you GET from someone else is not worth all that much. The key skill all writers need is the ability to critique their own work. By far the best way we have found to acquire that skill is by practicing critique on other people's writing.
It is astonishingly effective.
You are making assumptions, Cogito. No not on this site....through my writing groups and people I know. All I want to know from general readers is:
Did the story entertain?? This is why I write. Nobody has to be qualified to pass this sort of opinion, just anyone who enjoys reading stories. I just want to know whether the reader enjoyed the story....(if not why not of course).
Generally, I find critiquing others' writing doesn't help, in any way whatever, to know if readers enjoy my stories?
Thanks DanesDarkland for reading my post and commenting, i have two novels now.
1. Innocent Murder, 64,000. psychological thriller. Main character is portrayed as a recovering mental health patient who can't seem to get his life together again.
2. Death of Miss Wetherby. 42,000. Murder mystery where nosy schoolteacher gets involved in a series of threatening events. Very traditional story, modern day.
Hey mamma, he does freelance editing and public business speaking as a profession and before I paid him, he sent me 3 excerpts of his work. 2 excerpts were things he edited that went on to be published, and 1 was his own writing for his own book. I found the quality to be easy to read and engaging. He's done about 100 pages out of 270 of my novel so far and he's definitely pointed out some good things for me to work on. I must say, I wasn't really sure what kind of credentials I should've asked for, and as such, I only asked for examples of his work as well as some titles he's helped publish by editing.
Our agreement is quite unofficial. He originally requested 2000 euros, to which I said no thanks and bye bye - even if I wanted to, I don't have that kinda cash. In the end, he agreed to edit my manuscript for a 2nd hand laptop that my husband (IT guy) customised for him complete with parts and software. I was originally meant to pay him an amount of cash too, but in the end the editor said he'd rather take computer parts and services from my husband as and when he needs it and deduct the equivalent amount from the cash. In other words, the only thing we've physically paid is actually a laptop, worth about £200-£400.
I am inexperienced when it comes to hiring an editor - he was the first one I ever looked at and paid for, and the only one so far. We didn't make an agreement at the beginning about what he'd do (which I know was stupid, but so far he hasn't ripped me off I think). Now that he's in the editing process, he says he will read it and edit it once, pass it back to me and have me do whatever I like, take his advice or leave it etc, and then I am to send it once more and he'll polish it up. After that, I am to start submitting. At the beginning of our agreement, he did agree to help me with finding agents, as he has contacts in this area and he's helped recommend MS to agents before, which got published (or so he claimed a year ago anyway, when we first met). Assuming he's not lying, it should hopefully help my MS at least get read, if only a little.
He's been good with communication, always letting me know when he'll be away and unable to edit etc, and he sends me about 30 pages a week with comments. Sometimes there are not many comments (so I'm just gonna go ahead and assume they're fine as they are) and other times there're loads (like 2 disaster scenes that're about 50 pages long, which he gave a 2nd edit to already after I rewrote it).
None of this is on contract - there's actually been no written agreement, only verbal from over a year ago (again, probably not the smartest on my part). Given the way he's been editing my MS - 1. it's not publishable just yet and 2. he's honestly been doing editing and giving me advice - so I think I can safely say he's not gonna nick my MS and publish it himself.
sounds like you really lucked out there, despite having gone ahead on semi-blind trust, rather than going the cya legal contract route... if you're happy with his work and he's happy with his laptop, it's a win/win situation for sure... best of luck to you with the resulting ms...
i love the barter system and have benefitted from it myself... just recently did 6 screenplay rewrites in exchange for 5 months' free rent plus travel expenses to/from bogota colombia... and now the aspiring screenwriter is paying a decent fee for additional scenes and changes he wants done...
Would a critique that only lets you know whether the story entertains really be much use? You also need to be aware of errors so that you can put them right. You won't spot all your own mistakes.
Critiquing another story does help. Reading anything at all will strengthen your skills and reading in order to assess someone else's work will help you avoid the errors we all make from time to time.
Thanks! Sounds like you got yourself a nice deal there too!
Just for future reference, what sort of work would you normally expect from an editor, and how fast should he be turning work out? Do editors normally do what mine offered - eg. give one thorough edit and then a second to finalise? And what kinda editing credentials should I look for? Just in case I hire an editor again in the future but can't use my current one.
I honestly do not understand why a writer would pay somebody to edit their work. If they cannot do it themselves then they should not be writing, IMO
Think of it as like finding yourself a teacher. It just speeds the learning process up. Sure, you could do it yourself and find your way eventually in 20 years and get it right, or you could pay for a teacher - for me, such a person might as well be an editor and it's a better deal anyway cus you can focus on your own book - and learn what you need to learn in a year instead of 20. Why not?
My thinking was the same as yours originally - I shouldn't need a teacher/editor - but it became clear that I need feedback. Like most writers wanna be part of a writer's group, or have a writing buddy to give feedback - how are they different except that you don't pay them? Problem is, I know very few writers as friends and those who are don't even live in the same city as me. And not every friend knows how to critique or have the willingness to do so, especially as they're not writers themselves.
So, I needed feedback, but there's no one I know who could do that for me - no one qualified or willing - so what do you do, eh? Wanna plough through it yourself? Could do, but if there's someone who could give you feedback for a reasonable fee, I don't see why not. In my case, it was a frigging steal.
PS. the truth is, even when your work is publishable, the publisher still feels the need to have an editor edit your book anyway. Does it mean your work isn't good enough and you shouldn't be a writer because well, someone's editing it? The only difference is, you're paying and when a publisher takes it, you don't have to - but your work still needs editing in the end.
What assumption was that? I said "I hope it wasn't on this site," and I explained why. That isn't an assumption. It's making sure you understand the rules and don't inadvertently violate them.
Writers should be able to edit their own work and they should do it to the very best of their ability. But writing and editing are two different aspects of creating a readable and error free ms. and an editor (a good editor) has a different focus than the writer.
Editors are for professional writers with contracts and deadlines. They are expensive, and there needs to be a professional relationship between editor and writer so that both are focused on the author's goal. The editor, therefore, must know the author's style and voice, and be able to work within that framework. That also implies the author has already established a style and voice.
What you are probably really looking for is a writing tutor. However, that too requires a similar relationship, except the writing tutor has to help the writer find his or her writing voice and style without unduly injecting the editor's own style,
A heavy-handed or egotistical editor can do more harm than good.
This is an aspect of writing the writer must - MUST - develop for himself or herself.
there are too many levels of 'editing' to have a one-size-fits-all answer for that question... as for 'how fast' it should be, that also is impossible to apply a 'standard' time-frame to... it will depend on the length of the ms and the quality of the original writing... so, the 'sort of work' and the timing will be whatever the client and the editor agree upon...
some do... others may do more than that... so, again, there is no 'normally'... sorry i'm having to be so vague, but that's the reality... every editing job is different from every other one... and each piece of work and client dictate what the scope and other conditions of the job will be...
a good editor doesn't necessarily have to have 'credentials'... not 'official' ones, anyway... for instance, i have no degrees, never went to college except to audit 2nd and 3rd year french and a conversational italian class and have taken no writing/editing courses other than brief ones for tv script writing and lyricwriting, since they are both very specialized mediums... yet i've attracted and satisfied countless high-fee-paying clients over the past 30 years...
what you should do is check out their website and assess the quality of the site design itself and the site copy... look for acceptable quality in the editing samples they should provide on request... google their name and see what's been said about them... ask if they offer advice on writing sites and check out how they're treated and referred to by fellow members there... and of course ask for references from previous clients...
hope this helps... hugs, m
I agree with this. It's helped me immensely to read through another person's work, pick out the elements that could be improved, then turn around and find those same elements in my own writing. It's like using a magnifying glass that grows sharper with time and practice. It's an amazing way to learn.
Also it saves money. I'd rather save money and critique my own work, not pay someone else to do it...
Separate names with a comma.