Why Critique is so Important to a New Writer


After being a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association for the last three years I always send my work to their New Writers’ Scheme for critique and suggestions.

A few days ago I received my third report from the RNA and I have to say how delighted I was to receive a report that was both positive and encouraging.

The RNA readers do a very good service for new writers.  They are experienced published authors and although we never know who actually reads our novels, we can be sure that each time we submit to the scheme we receive a very logical appraisal of our work.

The report on my book ‘Goodbye Henrietta Street’ begins with:-

‘Well done on crafting a complex, intriguing novel which you have clearly worked very hard on and left me with a strong wish to visit the Isles of Scilly! Many people say to themselves I’ll write a book someday, but few sit down and dedicate themselves to doing so.  Even fewer commit the time to improve their skills and take the risk of showing their work to others.  All of which takes courage and determination – be proud of yourself.’

The report is eleven pages long and takes me through each chapter with comments like ‘Seeing your character lay down her cares and fall in love is lovely to witness.’  The reader also gave me pointers to improve on certain sentences and  the main areas to concentrate on to make the book sparkle.

The reader concentrated on voice, the plot, setting and senses and did a spot of line editing to make sure that the areas she didn’t understand  could be fixed without a problem. She also discussed the old subject of show/tell which wasn’t too bad but in the final edit I was going to search for these areas myself, now I don’t have to do that in such a laborious way.  Everything the reader has said has made it easier for editing.

I have to say how important it is to join up with an association for your genre.  If they have a critique scheme, then join it.  It works out much cheaper to allow the group to critique because the authors who read are very experienced and some are of tutors of writing. So it makes sense.

As this is my third submission to the RNA, each time I do it, I can see a huge difference to the way I write and how I have learned so much more with each passing year.

In the early days of writing I also had help from The Writing Coach Jacqui Lofthouse http://www.thewritingcoach.co.uk   and more recently from Cornerstones.www.cornerstones.co.uk  . To have several pairs of professional eyes check over your manuscript is so important.  Writing a book costs money if you want help,  but if you get the proper help from these people you can go back to them time and time again for advice knowing they are very supportive.  I honestly feel I couldn’t have got this far without them.

I have benefited from having all this help and will continue to stay with the RNA as long as possible because I feel this is my passport to success.   I now have my second novel in progress and will continue with the writing after I have completed the final edits on the first one.

One final word, never be afraid of critique.  It is a brave thing to do to allow someone else to look at your work, but if you don’t you will never learn to write to a standard needed for publishing.  You can never see your own mistakes. Do make sure that the person who does the critique is professional.  Friends and relatives can provide a basic critique, but a professional reader is the key to making it to the top. By professional I mean someone who is published many times over and has qualifications in English literature. Preferably someone who understands your genre only too well.

I want to say good luck to new writers out there.  It’s a long haul but worth everything you put into it.  I have enjoyed the ride so much I want to keep going even though I am not yet published (and of course that’s the next hurdle)  I may never be published but it’s all about self-satisfaction of knowing I wrote a book even if it is something to pass on to my family one day.  I do it because I can.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Why Critique is so Important to a New Writer

  1. Sheila Johnson

    This is so encouraging, Lin. I’ve received my second critiqued book back from the RNA last May. Much more positive than the first but still a long way to go. I’d like to continue editing it as I really believe in it but there may come a time when I feel its time to give up and get on with the next. Could the third be my passport to success too? Perhaps.

  2. Yes, I do think that in many cases it can be very good to have somebody else look at it, somebody with expertise or atleast with a ‘Fresh Look’.

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