Monday, March 7, 2011

The Value of Sharing Your Manuscript

I've never met an author who said, "No one reads my manuscript before it goes to the publisher."

Now, I'm sure there are writers out there who operate that way. However, I think it's safe to assume that few of those writers make it all the way to publication. Why? Because getting outside readers before you submit your work is SO important.

There are many names for other folks who read your manuscript before it becomes a real book: critique partners, first readers, beta readers, etc. And at different times in your writing life, you may need different things from each of them.

The sharing of my manuscripts goes this way:

1. My writer friend and critique partner reads the manuscript throughout the first draft process. We "switch" manuscripts about every 20,000-40,000 words or so. This is important to me because if I start going way off course, or seriously change my POV or something major, she can catch it before it's too far gone. I put all her suggestions in a folder to tackle when the rough draft is complete.

2. When my rough draft is done, my critique partner reads it all again. Her feedback is absolutely invaluable to the success of my novel.

3. When my revisions feel mostly done, I send the MS to my "first readers." These are a group of five or six ladies who enjoy reading. Yes, they are friends, but I trust their opinions. I ask them for specific feedback: Not just, "great job." If they like the manuscript, they tell me why. If things didn't work so well for them, they tell me why. I take their feedback very seriously and make necessary changes.

4. When I feel my novel is as polished as it could be, I send it, along with my query letter, to my critique partner one last time. We then help each other with line edits and give final feedback.

I also recently was asked to be a first reader on a novel based on a subject I have specific expertise in. This is also a great idea. If I were to write a book with a setting in the medical field (which I know nothing about), I would ask someone who knew about that to read it. This helps the writer confirm their jargon sounds realistic, and they didn't make any embarrassing mistakes.

I recently sent out my novel to my first readers and critque partner. It's getting really close to the submission stage, and I am super excited. The feedback I got was overwhelming. All of my readers loved my book, but still, they offered helpful suggestions, and I was able to make appropriate changes.

By the way, this awesome author's first book is being released today, so go check Melanie Jacobson out!

Thank you wonderful first readers. And thank you amazing critique partner. Your help means so much to me!

Do you use critique partners and beta readers? What do you look for in your pre-publication readers?


Bonnie R. Paulson said...

I do! I have a crush on my CP. She's honest and extremely helpful and points out problems with more tact than anyone I've ever met.

She's also an AWESOME writer.

Great post.

Tana Adams said...

I have a great CP!! In fact i'm anticipating getting my novel back any day. I'm on pins and needles. =)

Deborah A. said...

I have 3 people who read everything I write and always make helpful suggestions. One is very good at telling me what doesn't work and how to make it better. Another is very good at pointing out what works and what she likes. The last is really good at punctuation, grammar and other technicalities. It really does take a village to write a novel!

Melanie Jacobson said...

Ahhh! So cool! Thanks for posting the link! And thanks for doing me the other gigantic favor, too!

Lauren said...

My husband read and edited the manuscript for my first novel. I'm so glad he did - I think he missed his calling to be an editor! :)