The Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog’s question for the month is: How do you approach critiquing someone's manuscript? For instance, do you focus on one thing at a time, or do you "let 'em have it" all at once? And once it's out there, do you ever regret sending off a critique because it moved the person in a direction you didn't intend or anticipate?
My goodness, Laura. You don’t ask easy questions. ;-)
I approach all crits with caution, and each novel differently. If the manuscript needs a LOT of work, I might do a line crit, pointing out spelling and grammar errors. The less help I feel I can be to the writer, the more detail-oriented my response is. There may be nothing overall “wrong” with the work, but if I can’t connect to it in some way, all I can offer is proofreading.
Ideally, though, I prefer to give overarching critiques. I like to point out when something worked brilliantly, or when limped along. I like to note good foreshadowing, or when an element popped out of the blue – and not in a good surprise way. I’m particularly fussy about endings that rush by too quickly, or that leave me scratching my head.
My goal is to help the novelist in a positive way. To make him or her say, “Ah-ha, that’s what was bothering me.” And best of all to say, “I can fix that!”
So far, I haven’t regretted a novel crit, though I cringe at my early attempts to crit short stories. I always worry that I’ve depressed the writer, which is the last thing I want to do. All stories have merit. They just might not be marketable in their current form.