Why Your Novel Needs a Manuscript Critique Before You Send It Out

By Thea L Swanson

You know the value of your words. You know how many hours you spent on them, how you honed your craft, and how anyone with eyes to see will see. Unfortunately, you can’t see. You can see what you want to see, and you can see many good things, but as a writer who just finished a novel (or short story), you are too close to the work to see what doesn’t work.

You can see many of the weak spots if you walk away from your work for at least one full year. Then, you will see it with fresh eyes–not a mother’s eyes, but a surgeon’s eyes.

You must be willing to sacrifice your babies.
The sentences that you labored over.
Kill them.
Not all of them, just the ones that drag your story down, or take it to some distant land, or don’t work.

But can you be both the mother and the surgeon? Probably not. Even if you walk away for a year, your words will still glow because you made them live. But they are dying in the drawer or the computer folder. Let them breathe by offering them over to a seasoned eye, to an expert, not to your friend or your coworker. Instead, offer your novel to a professional, someone you pay money to. Why? Because that paid professional who critiques your manuscript will be invested in your work and respectful of you as a writer. Respect equals honesty. An excellent critique will not only point out what needs help but also what works well. And the paid professional wants a good reference, so he or she will do a good job. The market out there is fierce, so your novel matters.

Q. What is in a critique?

A.  A good critique of a novel or short story should examine much of the following:

The overall story-arc

  • Are there complications?
  • Is there a crisis point?
  • Is there a climax?

Character development

  • Does the main character act, or is he or she passive?
  • Is there a clear antagonist?
  • Does the reader know your characters?
  • Do you know your characters?

Point-of-view choice/effectiveness


  • Do readers care about your story?
  • Why or why not?
  • What can be done to make readers care more?

Look for someone who knows and cares about writing narratives. Your heart went onto the page. Don’t offer it to just anyone.

Thea Swanson has published numerous short stories, is working on her second novel, earned an MFA in Writing, edits peer-reviewed journals, and owns MSS Editing, an online, manuscript editing boutique that offers a highly personal approach and extremely low rates. See her approach to critiques and other manuscript services at [http://www.mssediting.com]http://www.mssediting.com.
Article Source:  Why Your Novel Needs a Manuscript Critique Before You Send It Out

4 responses to “Why Your Novel Needs a Manuscript Critique Before You Send It Out

  1. Pingback: Growing List of People Quoting Sebastian Cole «·

  2. Pingback: How about a 250 word critique blog hop? | Jennifer M Eaton·

  3. Pingback: What to do with that Manuscript that’s under the bed « M. Q. Allen·

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