Tuesday, October 14, 2014
These last two weeks I've been spending more time on a friend's book than my own. She's very close to finishing and this is one of her final drafts. But how does one critique a friend's book and still stay friends?
First of all, you must be good friends. Or at least be able to be honest or you're really not helping them.
Before you start looking at their writing, ask them what they want you to look for. Grammar and spelling? Overarching storyline? Does the blind person "see" anything? Is it boring? Decide from the outset what their expectations are. Be clear what your abilities are. If you don't think you can do a good job at what they need, then be honest right there.
Do both of you a favor and learn a few proofreader's marks. You don't have to know all - just a few to help make it clear what you're saying with as few strokes of your red pen as possible.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee, a red (or contrasting color) pen and sit down with their manuscript. When you see something that you think needs to be addressed, mark it. If you're not sure and want to come back later, make a pencil mark. Sometimes later context will explain things. Look for what your friend wants you to look for. When you have a question - mark it. A reader may have the same one. When you feel an emotion - sadness, joy, laughter, note that too by saying something like, "loved this part, it made me cry."
If you find a major flaw in the story that may change the structure or a character or whatnot, then write out a separate, kindly worded note.
Realize that even though you may find something you think needs to change, doesn't mean your friend will change it. Let go of any ownership of your editing and allow them to make the final decision.
At the end, write a couple sentences on what you liked and overall thoughts. Always be kind yet honest. And thank your friend for allowing you to look at their "baby."
This is what I have done and am doing for my writing friends. So far, we're all still friends. And better yet, we are friends with published books.