Revision Tip #4

Never ask loved ones or blood relatives to critique your manuscript. They can read it, but only with the understanding that their job is to cheer you on. Their only responses shall be "That’s great, honey!" or "Wow! Now I know why you’re so excited!" or "I am so proud of you!"

If they say "You spent all that time locked in the closet and this is what you produced?" you are allowed to burst into tears. (I do not encourage full-blown temper tantrums complete with banging head against floor, but I understand that sometimes they are necessary.)

You need peers – people who are also writing and who read a lot – to give you a decent critique of your work.

Rule of thumb: don’t ask loved ones to read your manuscript and don’t ask critique buddies to pick up their socks.

EDITED TO ADD: Several of you commented that if your loved one is a writer, s/he can offer extremely helpful critiques. I agree. That works in my family, too. But I think it is rare. My tips this month are written with new NaNoWriMo participants in mind and I am guessing that few of them have a loving, in-house, qualified critiquer.

14 Replies to “Revision Tip #4”

  1. Here I must respectfully disagree. My best critiques have come from my closest loved ones, who understand writing. I respect their judgement more than anyone else’s, on everything not just writing, but writing included. I just happen to love best those whose judgement I respect most.

  2. Never ask loved ones or blood relatives to critique your manuscript. They can read it, but only with the understanding that their job is to cheer you on. Their only responses shall be “That’s great, honey!” or “Wow! Now I know why you’re so excited!” or “I am so proud of you!”

    With an exception–if your loved one also is a writer, this can work out quite well. 🙂

  3. My wife isn’t a writer (good thing, since every family needs one adult), but she was blessed with the eye of a copy editor. It’s amazing what she catches. Still, I know that’s the exception to the rule, and most writers should heed your advice.

  4. Critique

    Ulp! as if rejection letters aren’t bad enough! Although, if the loved one is a writer, at least you know that they know what it’s like to have their words either trashed or praised. Tricky waters, though . . .

  5. I am thankful to write with my sister. We co-write things and critique each other’s work. We also have several online friends who are also writers and offer advice.

    Thanks for all the great revision tips!

  6. The kind of reader you suggest is the kind BD is, although she will on occasion say, “I’m not sure about the part where…” Which is fine with me. When she says something like that, I know I need to pay attention.

    HH is also a wonderful reader for any of my journalism, because he notices where something may be awkwardly phrased or where some slight corrections are needed. But that’s because, like me, he learned the basics in school and also because he’s an avid reader.

    But I do also have a writer’s group, people who look at overall structure and character development and all the deeper issues.

  7. I showed my husband the first chapter of my novel, as a way of including him in the process, since I had ignored him so much in order to work on it. He totally trashed it and told me that if I want to know how real men act I should watch “Beowulf.”

    Oh-kay then.

  8. Coming from both sides of the issue, I’m on the side of the “no good can come from this” in this debate, especially if the loved one is a professional. When I was a literary manager in Hollywood I had a lot of friends who wrote screenplays. That’s something that just happens if you live in LA; you know a lot of aspirings.

    If I read a friend’s screenplay and it sucked, I couldn’t respect them any more for spending their lives waiting tables to write junk, and it would ruin the friendship. If I read it and gave them real feedback, many of them would run screaming. And in the odd case that the person was ready for professional feedback and mature enough to take it from a friend, they would then abuse the friendship to get more help from me.

    I’m out of the business, now, but I still won’t read a script for a friend. Bad mojo.

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