Should you ask friends and family to review your newly finished manuscript for you? Writers are often advised against it, because those who are close to us are likely to be more polite than honest, and may not have the necessary knowledge to make comments on the technical aspects of story writing. However, although they are unable to advise on characterisation, plot, narrative voice and dialogue, does that mean that friends and family have nothing of value to offer? I would suggest they do!
Here are three things you could ask for comments on (carefully choosing people who will be both encouraging and honest, of course!), which would be useful feedback on your newly finished manuscript:
- At what point did they put the story down? As writers we are aiming to write stories that are so gripping that readers are unable to put the book down. Of course readers may sometimes be obliged to stop and get on with some other activity, but if several reviewers mention the same place, it could be that you should look at tightening up some aspect of that particular scene. Perhaps you could move the plot on a bit faster, cut out a bit of dialogue or change the scene completely.
- Was there anything in the story that didn’t make sense? When you are so close to your story, and have perhaps worked on it for weeks or months or even years, it’s easy to overlook sometimes glaring mistakes. These could be in timing, character, sentence structure or various other issues. A fresh pair of eyes could be useful in picking up these errors so you can sort them out.
- What was it about the story that remained with you? It may be that your hero was an inspiration to your readers, or your theme shone through. That would be encouraging! If not, it could be worth your while thinking about how you could improve your story in some way, to make sure that you have achieved your purpose.
After this initial feedback from trusted acquaintances, and hopefully having received some useful comments and made any necessary changes, there’s nothing like a professional manuscript criticism service . . . but at least you might have already corrected some obvious mistakes before you do.
Do you let your family and friends read your manuscripts? It would be great to hear your experiences!