Thursday 23 January 2014

How To Be a Writer's Friend

I have had a few friends ask me to read their manuscripts lately. Which is so exciting and nerve wracking all at once. For both of us. I can only imagine the time and energy it takes to write a novel. Then to ask someone to actually read it must be agony! I'm always a little torn inside when asked if I will read a friends manuscript. Am I going to like it? What if I don't? What will this do to our friendship?

Here are some tips to get you through it::

01. Read it immediately. If you can't get to it right away then tell your friend you won't be able to read it until _____.  They are anxiously awaiting your thoughts. The longer you wait tells your friend you don't care about them. Which isn't true but it is how they feel. You might check in after a few days and say, " I haven't started yet. I didn't want you to worry or to think I didn't like it." Or maybe you could say," I've read the first few chapters and I'm really impressed! I'll let you know when I'm finished." Just keep the writer informed. More than likely they are on pins and needles wondering what you thought.

02. Once you've finished the story, sit down with your loved one and PRAISE THE STORY! You must have seen something worthwhile in the story. Start with that. I know you want to get to the stuff that didn't work but if you can't start with the good stuff then your loved one might not be responsive to your feedback. Be specific and sincere in your praise. I personally give ten things that I love about the book. Start there.

Good examples:

"The dialogue between x and y is so realistic!"

"The opening was gripping."

"I really like Character X."

"This is the most amazing book I've ever read!"

Bad examples:

"You're really good at punctuation." Double lame. A writer isn't even thinking about punctuation at this point.

"I really liked it except for the middle part."

03. After sincerely praising at least ten things give some constructive feedback. If this is your first time reading their manuscript I wouldn't give any more than three specific things. Why? You are probably not an industry professional. Am I right? Book bloggers don't count. It is best not to take the voice of authority here. The last thing you'd want to do is discourage them from writing anymore. S/he might not be able to absorb more than those three things at this time.

Good examples:

"I loved Y. I wouldn't mind seeing more of him. Especially in the second half."

"X seemed to lie a lot which made it hard for me to like her."

Bad examples:

"It didn't make sense. You should redo it all."

"This part was really boring. Cut it all."

04.  Some of you might not agree with my three things rule. But, I think it's a good rule. Especially for the first read of a manuscript. If your loved one is asking for more constructive feedback {are you being pressed? really pressed?!) then you can do so. But remember that unsolicited advice always sounds like criticism.

The more you work with your loved one the more you will know exactly what they are looking for from you. You will build a trust between the two of you that you can eventually just let them have it in whatever shape or form you think/feel it.

05. Continue to give encouragement! Writing is a tough business and hard work. Keep your loved one going with all the love and encouragement you can give them!

Good examples:

"You can do it!"

"How's the story going?"

"Can I take the kids for a few hours next week so you can have some quiet writing time?"

"I'm so proud of all your hard work! It's going to pay off someday."

Do you have any tips of your own? Head on over to Author Jolene Perry's blog. She's weighing in on the same topic.


  1. This is BRILLIANT. And yes, this is SO helpful for a first read.
    Now that I've done this a few times, I don't mind harsher crit on my first round, but I still need the list of good stuff. Even now. Even bajillions of books later, lol. Fantastic post.

  2. I LOVE this--every point is exactly right. Except... I'm always worried about punctuation. (What?) ;o) j/k

    Seriously, I hope betas everywhere will take note!

    So... you wanna read my book? LOL! Just kidding~ ;o) <3

    1. If you're into punctuation then let your BETA know to add some focus there. It's all about making sure everyone is on the same page!

      I just read a friends manuscript where she basically just needed a cheerleader and not so much constructive criticism. I was happy to be that!

  3. This post is perfect! Great advice that I totally agree with as both a writer and a friend of a writer. :)

    Kay @ It's a Book Life

  4. Awesome advice. You have me thinking I have a few books I need to get to asap. I tend to wait for the right time but it doesn't mean anything against the writer. Thanks for helping me see things in a new light.


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