Some writers dread the middle of a novel. Its an easy place for characters, themes, plots and subplots to get stuck, lost, or to go on unnecessary tangents. The critical reader questions in this post are designed to help reader feedback to support the writer in keeping Act 2 on track, and ensuring it gives the reader a good experience.
Great, you’ve found a critical reader or a story to read! How can you ensure that working with the reader or the writer is a positive, productive experience? I’d like to say the hard part is finding each other and from now on it will all be sunshine and rainbows, but I’ve heard stories of critical reader feedback like, “This is wrong. That was poorly done. You’re such a bad writer.” Or maybe you agreed to read a novel, you get it and… it’s not your cup of tea, or so raw that just re-reading to figure out what’s happening will take more time than you want to give it. To help you avoid (or recognise and exit) these situations, and to create effective partnerships, here’s 6 tips for positive partnerships, and 6 tips for productive partnerships.
Act 1 is crucial in guiding readers into your character’s world and maintaining reader engagement. Critical readers can help you evaluate how your writing impacts on unfamiliar readers, but in my experience, if you don’t ask critical readers to comment on anything in particular, they may only comment on what annoys them, what they love and if they’re writers -their personal strengths of writing craft. This may exclude aspects of your craft -or any particular novel- you are still developing. This post is a list of reflective questions to help guide holistic critical reader feedback.
With many literary agents wanting only the first 5-10 pages with a query, those opening pages are crucial to readers and traditional publishing alike. Yet as a critical reader, the main advice I’ve given is to delete or re-write whole paragraphs. To help you reflect upon and edit, or plan and write your opening pages in a clear and engaging way, I’ll unpack 9 reflective questions.
Critique partner and beta reader feedback can be gold, but as editing is a complex task, it can be difficult to decide what exactly you’d like critical readers to comment on, especially in the crucial first chapter. The reflective questions in this post will help guide critical reader feedback (and in some cases self-editing), giving you insight into how engaging, well paced and easy or difficult to follow unfamiliar readers found your opening chapter.
You’ve written your novel. You’ve revised it multiple times. Now you know it so well that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Your mind can fill gaps, plot and character arc holes big enough to park cars (or at least bicycles) in. When you re-read your novel, your subconscious is re-wording convoluted sentences that could tie poor reader up in knots and your authorial bias is skipping over sentences/ paragraphs/ entire scenes which may put readers to sleep. Now you need critical reader feedback, ideally from writers with different strengths and experience to yours, to help develop your knowledge and hone your craft. If you can’t afford an editor, critical reader feedback is your best chance of avoiding premature querying/ publishing. So where do you find effective critical readers?