How can you give a good manuscript critique? When you critique a manuscript, you want to do a good job. You want the writer to be able to tell easily what you think. You want to give them both ways to correct and ways to enhance the manuscript. Here are ways that will guide you and insure you give a good critique.
When you critique a manuscript, make your notes stand out:
- Put in blue text at least three Blue Ribbon passages or highlight in blue – my name for words, sentences, phrases, paragraphs, or scenes that are especially well-written. In this particular manuscript, these parts win First Prize – the Blue Ribbon.
- Put in red text, highlight in yellow, and/or cross out words you believe should be deleted .
- Use a different color font for your remarks from the one the writer used.
- Use all caps for your input. WHAT A STRONG BEGINNING!
- Note punctuation and grammar errors.
- Point out where the writer needs to show, not tell. SHOW, DON’T TELL.
- Write questions in the manuscript when you think of them.
- Or do your own thing. Be creative.
Write the following questions at the beginning of the manuscript you’re about to critique. It will help you focus on the story’s strengths, as well as give the author places that need enrichment. If you’re the author, ask yourself these questions about one of your own manuscripts.
23 Questions for a Critique
After reading a manuscript, answer these questions.
- What does the main character want?
- What was he willing to do to get it?
- What kept the main character from getting what he wanted?
- Does he get what he wants? How?
- What are the mistakes that the main character makes?
- What are his flaws? (He’s got to have flaws.)
- What is the lowest point in the story?
- Did the main character change? How?
- What does the main character learn about life from his experiences in this story?
- Do you know what each main character wants?
- Does each main character have a distinct voice of his own?
- Can you tell when a different character is talking?
- What do you want to know that the writer is not telling you?
- Does it make sense? If not, note in the manuscript which parts that don’t make sense.
- Does the main character face his conflict or run away?
- Does the main character save himself by human means or is he saved with unbelievable circumstances that seems like magic?
- Mark where writer needs to show, don’t tell.
- Can you write a short summary of the story? Do it.
- What are three main errors-main punctuation and grammar errors-for the author to correct?
- Point out any pet words that the author uses over and over again? A thesaurus might have other words to use in place of them.
- What are three Blue Ribbon passages?
- What questions come to mind as you read the manuscript?
- After reading the story, can you write a short (25-100 word) summary? Do so. If not, tell the parts of the story that are missing.
Never Give Up!
Joan Y. Edwards