Monday, March 12, 2012

The Next Phase: Full Manuscript Review

Like many writers I know, I belong to a writing critique group, where we periodically review and comment on each other's work. My group meets twice a month, and we can submit up to 20 pages or 5000 words for critique each time. That means it takes quite a few months to review a whole book-length manuscript. Like the pencil pusher above, I've been pushing chapters of my latest manuscript through my critique group for a long time and have been editing the chapters based on their feedback. They still have a few chapters to go, but it's time to move on to the next phase of soliciting feedback on my manuscript.

That phase is a full manuscript review, where I ask others to read the full book manuscript at once and give me overall comments on the whole thing. One of the main things that this can accomplish that is hard to do one chapter at a time is to discover pacing problems, where the story slows down too much and the reader loses interest. Another type of problem that a full manuscript review can often find is continuity or logic problems that span multiple chapters--or skip multiple chapters.

Yesterday, I sent off the full manuscript of my latest book project (Cataract Canyon, the third book in my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series) to two trusted reviewers. The first is my literary agent. She reviews all of my manuscripts before I deliver them to my publisher. She has a good feel for the mystery market, for quality writing, and for what readers prefer and can tolerate, so I respect her judgement. The second reviewer is a fellow mystery author whose work I admire and who has traded critiques with me in the past. He doesn't have a full manuscript for me to review right now, but I am willing and ready to return the huge favor whenever he finishes his next book-length manuscript.

While I wait for their feedback, I'll continue to edit the manuscript myself, using critique group feedback and my own editing criteria and guidelines that I've developed for myself over the years. And, I'll hope that my two full manuscript reviewers don't find anything drastically wrong!


Sheila W. Boneham said...

Congratulations, Beth, on reaching the "full ms." phase - again! You're so right, the full read is a different read from the piecemeal, and each has value for the developing novel. Returning the favor does more than repay a debt, too - reading other works in progress always helps me see me own writing differently. I look forward to the "post-manuscipt" read!

Mario said...

Good post. A critique group helps when it's time for a full manuscript review. You've paid your karma dues. A lot of wanna-bees don't understand that when they ask for a read right out of the blue.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks so much for your comments, Mario and Sheila! Yes, this is a favor-trading business, where if you want someone to do something for you (a blurb, critique, intro to an agent/editor, or whatever), you need to do a return favor for them that's of similar time and effort.