We’ve talked before about, unless you’re writing for your own eyes only, you need to consider your readers when you write. You can find that post here. In order to do that you’re eventually going to need to ask for feedback on your writing. Feedback can come from many places and in many forms, but some is going to be better than others. Let’s take a look at some common places to get feedback, and their pros and cons.
Family is (mostly) awesome. They love you, they think you’re cool and they want you to be happy. Also, they might be happy to read your work for free (cha-ching). But is family the right place to get feedback on your work?
- They don’t charge
- They’re easy to approach
- You trust and value their opinions
- They may not be totally honest with you (because they love you and don’t want to hurt you
- They don’t necessarily know how to assess a manuscript
- They’re biased (again, because they love you)
- They’re unfamiliar with the technical aspects of writing
- They can be unreliable
Other writers should have your back, right? Yep. And they’re in the same boat as you, so they’ll know their stuff too.
- They understand the technical aspects of writing and how to express them. They can point out problems with plot, structure, dialogue and character arcs etc.
- They don’t charge
- They’re honest because they know honesty is what you need to improve, and their feedback is constructive
- They may ask you to read their work in turn and that in itself can be useful
- You may need to join a critique or writers group to have access to other writers and you may not feel comfortable about this (it’s something I’m still struggling with)
- They may not be at the same level of writing as you – a less experienced writer may not be able to give you the level of advice you need
- They’re busy and may not be able to work to your time-frame
- They may ask you to read their work in turn, and you might not feel like it
A Mentor or Manuscript Assessment Service
A mentor is an experienced, usually published, writer who knows what publishers and agents are looking for and can give you excellent feedback. A manuscript service is just that, a service offered by an organisation (such as a writer’s association) to assess your manuscript.
- They are extremely professional
- They are efficient
- They are constructive
- They have insight into the publishing industry
- They understand the technicalities of writing
- They charge and they can be expensive. Assessing a manuscript takes many, many hours of work and both mentors and services charge accordingly
- They will be honest and, while they will be professional and constructive, that honesty can sometimes be painful and confronting
In my opinion, finding a mentor or using an assessment service gives you the best return on your time and money. But, they can be pricey.
For example, the assessment service offered by Writers Victoria (of which I am a member) starts at AU$540 for a long manuscript up to 10,000, with an additional cost of AU$40 for every 10,000 words over that you go. The standard for a YA novel is 50,000 words. Yikes!
The mentor I have worked with in the past charged AU$25/half hour and she often did upwards of ten hours of work on my manuscripts. For me, it was well worth the cost. But, while both options can result in a better manuscript, they don’t guarantee that your work will end up published.
Asking other writers to look at your work is the next best option, and this is where cultivating your writing tribe is useful. If you’re not in a position to pay for assessments (and, lets face it, we don’t always have extra cash floating around) then other writers can be a God-send.
Family, in my opinion, are the worst people to ask to assess your work, unless you’re looking for a confidence boost (or your family may be the brutally honest kind. In that case, just don’t go there. Why do that to yourself?). They may be avid readers, but a reader does not necessarily make a writer. And they’re less likely to be able to give you subjective feedback (whether negative or positive).