Understanding the Friendly Critique

When I visited NYC this fall, one of the reasons for my trip was a review of my novel manuscript. I won the review in a silent auction through the Authors Guild, and while I was thrilled, had no idea of what to expect. I had the manuscript edited a second time before sending it off.

We met, and the gentleman had some great feedback. It was clear he had read the manuscript, and as a mystery writer himself, calling it a “complex page turner” that had been well researched. Some of his suggestions I liked, and others I didn’t. Afterward, I rushed back to my hotel and emailed my editor, at that point ready to implement many of his recommendations.

Thankfully, my editor responded with feedback that made me slow down, take a breath, and think this through. The first thing Cara asked me was it this was a “friendly critique” or was this gentleman offering publication if the revisions were made? No, he wasn’t offering publication or giving me a referral. I realized he was providing the former. In that case Cara said, “Take what you feel is helpful and ignore the rest. Ultimately YOU have to write the book you are proud of, and that means embracing and loving all the revisions. If a publishing deal is on other end, I’d be more likely to make the suggested changes. Otherwise, make the revisions that make the most sense to you.”

Cara and I both agreed on making the lead, a female detective in the original draft, clearly the lead character who is the person that puts the pieces together. Now the detective is a Captain, with a department under her and greater power. We all three agreed the streamlining the novel even further, which is not a terrible thing.

The positive feedback was appreciated and inspiring. When I returned home, I set about revising my novel to make the protagonist stronger, smarter, and in charge, while also using my writer’s eye to look for unnecessary words, scenes, and even chapters that could be deleted. Once the novel is complete, I’ll focus on publishers of mystery/crime novels this time out.

With the first draft I had three full manuscript requests out of nearly 100 submissions. With Cara’s explanation and expert feedback, I’m confident that I’m finally on the right track to writing a novel I’m proud to call mine, and getting it published.

Editor Cara Lockwood is a USA Today best-selling author the owner of Edit My Novel.

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