Guide for a Good Manuscript Critique

Guide for a Good Manuscript Critique by Joan Y. Edwards

How can you give a good manuscript critique? When you critique a manuscript, you want to do a good job. You want the writer to be able to tell easily what you think. You want to give them both ways to correct and ways to enhance the manuscript. Here are ways that will guide you and insure you give a good critique.

When you critique a manuscript, make your notes stand out:

  • Highlight in blue or put in blue text at least three Blue Ribbon passages – my name for words, sentences, phrases, paragraphs, or scenes that are especially well-written. In this particular manuscript, these parts win First Prize – the Blue Ribbon.
  • Highlight in yellow or put in red text, and/or cross out words you believe should be deleted like this.
  • Use a different color font for your remarks from the one the writer used.
  • Use all caps for your input. WHAT A STRONG BEGINNING!
  • Note punctuation and grammar errors.
  • Point out where the writer needs to show, not tell. SHOW, DON’T TELL.
  • Write questions in the manuscript when you think of them.
  • Or do your own thing. Be creative.

Write the following questions at the beginning of the manuscript you’re about to critique. It will help you focus on the story’s strengths, as well as give the author places that need enrichment. If you’re the author, ask yourself these questions about one of your own manuscripts. When you ask another person to critique your work, you can highlight questions for special emphasis.

23 Questions for a Critique

After reading a manuscript, answer these questions.

  1. Do you know what main character wants?
  2. What was he willing to do to get it?
  3. What kept the main character from getting what he wanted?
  4. Does he get what he wants? How?
  5. What are the mistakes that the main character makes?
  6. What are his flaws? (He’s got to have flaws.)
  7. What is the lowest point in the story?
  8. Did the main character change? How?
  9. What does the main character learn about life from his experiences in this story?
  10. Do you know what each main character wants?
  11. Does each main character a distinct voice of his own?
  12. Can you tell when a different character is talking?
  13. What do you want to know that the writer is not telling you?
  14. Does it make sense? If not, note in the manuscript which parts that don’t make sense.
  15. Does the main character face his conflict or run away?
  16. Does the main character save himself by human means or is he saved with unbelievable circumstances that seems like magic?
  17. Did you mark where writer needs to show, don’t tell.
  18. Can you write a short summary of the story? Do it.
  19. What are three main errors main punctuation and grammar errors for the author to correct?
  20. Point out any pet words that the author uses over and over again? A thesaurus might have other words to use in place of them.
  21. What are three Blue Ribbon passages?
  22. What questions come to mind as you read the manuscript?
  23. After reading the story, can you write a short (25-100 word) summary? Do so. If not, tell the parts you can and explain the parts of the story that are missing.

I wish you great success in your writing career. Thanks for reading this blog post. You honor me with your presence.

May I count you as a Pub Subber? Pub Subbers submit one or more of their quality works on the third Friday (or any other day) of the month to critique groups, editors, agents, or contests.

Please leave a message in the comment area. I’d love to hear your ideas on how to give a good critique.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Flip Flap Floodle on Amazon Even mean ole Mr. Fox can’t stop this little duck!

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Copyright 2012 © Joan Y. Edwards

14 thoughts on “Guide for a Good Manuscript Critique”

  1. OMGoodness, Joan. This is marvelous information, helpful to writers and readers/critiquers. I’m going to copy this and paste it where I’ll see it. THANK YOU!!

    1. Dear Linda, I’m glad you like the three Blue Ribbon passages idea. When critiquing, it’s good to let the writers know what they are doing right, so they can do more of it. It does make you “float on air” when you get a Blue Ribbon passage noted in your manuscripts. Do something fun to celebrate your ability to encourage and impart your wisdom to others, Joan Y. Edwards

      Flip Flap Floodle, the little duck who never gives up even when he’s inside Mr. Fox’s belly Amazon

  2. This is really useful!
    When I critique, I always like to point out what I feel are the parts of the story that really shine, and I really like the idea of highlighting it in blue. I think it’s important that the writer know what parts I don’t feel need to change at all, as well as the ones that need attention. I would hate to see something that I think is strong go into the shredder!

    Besides, it’s always nice to make someone feel great about their work. 🙂
    I also like your checklist!

    1. Dear Kirsten, Thanks for writing. I am honored to hear from you. I’m glad you believe my guide for a good manuscript critique is useful. Thanks for the compliment. You are right. When you highlight the areas you like in blue, it does help them get noticed and may save them from the shredder! Horror of all horrors. I’m glad you like the checklist, too. I hope that the guide helps you or someone you care about closer to publication.

      Smile Giggle Laugh Joan Y. Edwards

      Flip Flap Floodle, the little duck who never gives up, even when he’s inside Mr. Fox’s belly

      Look for Joan’s Elder Care Guide in May 2016 with 4RV Publishing.

    1. Dear Dot,
      Thank you very much for the compliment. Putting me in the league with Christina Barber and Lea Schizas as Olympic-Level critiquers has me floating on air. Look above you, I’m hanging onto a helium-filled balloon just over your head. Celebrate you and your ability to make people feel great about themselves.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

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