The More the Merrier

The other day someone asked if I thought you could have too many critiquers checking over your work. Personally, my answer is “NO.”

Of course, writing is a private endeavor and everyone has their own ways of doing things. Some folks don’t want anyone seeing their work until it’s done. But for me, where constructive criticism is concerned, I figure the more the merrier.

Recently, at an agent’s workshop, I learned that one of the difficulties in getting published right now is the limited number of editors. A publishing house at one time might have had five editors, each with five projects. Now, four of those editors have been fired and the one remaining is stuck with all 25 projects. So in order for him to be at all interested in taking on your manuscript, it has to be PERFECT. He no longer has the time to work with you to make it shine. It has to be ready to go when it first hits his desk.

This is a terrifying prospect! I can have twenty critiquers and first readers go over my manuscript and STILL find typos! How the heck does that happen?

My current plan of attack is this: I have a face-to-face critique group that sees a chapter before anyone else. They aren’t mystery writers, so the feedback is more general. Plot, pace, tension. Good writing is good writing regardless of the genre.

After making revisions based on their comments, I post that same chapter to my cyber critique group of mystery writers. They look at from a different perspective. I make more revisions according to this group’s comments. Then I send the chapter to my Guppies critique group for another round.

Meanwhile, I’m working on the next chapter. The cycle continues.

That’s it for critiquing. But I still have more eyes look at it. After the manuscript is finished, I send it (in its entirety) to my “first readers.” These are not the same folks as my critique buddies. These are selected for specific reasons. I usually include a fellow mystery writer, a mystery READER who isn’t a writer, a “technical advisor” or two (for the veterinary mysteries set in the world of Thoroughbred racing, I had a retired vet from Hialeah and a trainer/friend from Mountaineer) to make sure I have the terminology and procedures right, and an English teacher or someone with an eye for those typos and misspelled words.

The rest is all up to me. Hopefully, once the manuscript has gone through all that, it’s as close to perfect as this imperfect writer can make it.


Joyce said…
I do a similar thing with my manuscripts. And by that time, I'm so thoroughly sick of the book that I never want to see it again!
Anonymous said…
I'm exhausted just reading this!

xo Kathy
Sara said…
I found a typo in your post. ;)

Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Annette said…
Sara--Just one?
RhondaL said…
This sounds like a good plan. I'm about halfway through my first draft, so I have an eye ahead toward critiquing. A lot of people have one critique group, and quite a few aren't happy with that one.

But I'd be halfway afraid that I would have worked my way through my potential reader base. :)

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