Another entry in my completely unstructured on-going series on Process.
Recently, I was asked by a friend to read their latest WIP. I was happy to do it, because this friend is supremely talented and I have relied on their advice several times before for my own work.
This is not uncommon. Inevitably, if you are writer, you will have writer friends. And those writer friends will ask you for this kind of favor, as you will ask it of them. So it is perhaps a good idea to go over some basics on how to give notes.
1. Figure out what kind of notes you have been asked to give.
Has your friend asked you to read because you have amazing grammar skills? Are they asking you to read because you do stand-up on weekends and they want to see if your sense of humor responds? How about if they want to know if their hero or heroine resonates with you? The overall plot? Make sure that you get proper marching orders before you dig in.
2. Don’t let personal grievances get in the way.
Let’s say you absolutely positively believe the conjunctive “alright” is NOT a word, even though it is recognized in Webster’s. (If this is the case, you are likely my mother.) Or let’s say that the hero of the WIP you are reading is named Joe, and you happened to have recently broken up with a guy named Joe, so your grind your teeth every time you see the name in black and white. GET OVER IT. You are not being asked to imprint your personal hang-ups into the story. And if you can’t get over it, chances are any real notes you give will not be taken seriously or into account.
3. Give good notes.
It’s very easy to say “give good notes” and send your reader on their merry way – it’s a lot harder to be the one given those instructions. And there are not any hard and fast rules regarding giving good notes. The best thing I can tell you is don’t be kind. Instead, be honest in your reactions, and explain why you feel that way. Also, if you come across something that is a problem, that does not sit right with you as a reader, suggest a solution or two. Just saying “this seems wrong and I don’t know why,” helps no one.
As always with any of these process blogs, your mileage may vary. Just remember, you are being asked to give notes for a reason – this person trusts you and respects your opinion. Don’t be kind, be honest, and be thorough. And don’t be offended if not every single one of your notes is taken as the golden drop of perfect wisdom you think it is. It’s up to the note-receiver to take the notes they like and reject the ones they don’t.
That’s all for now – next week there will be another drawing in my website contest, so if you haven’t entered yet, why are you waiting? And there is more and more writing to be done, so it’s a long fun week for me. Until next time sweets – happy reading!