Reader Friday: When & how do you seek critical feedback?

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At what stage in your writing projects do you seek critical feedback from others? Who are the first readers you ask for advice? What are you looking to hear from them?

Please share your thoughts on getting feedback for your work in progress and the importance of it.

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About Jordan Dane

Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She is the author of young-adult novels written for Harlequin Teen, the Sweet Justice thriller series for HarperCollins., and the Ryker Townsend FBI psychic profiler series, Mercer's War vigilante novellas, and the upcoming Trinity LeDoux bounty hunter novels set in New Orleans. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs. To keep up with new releases & exclusive giveaways, click HERE

24 thoughts on “Reader Friday: When & how do you seek critical feedback?

  1. This is my plan. Didn’t do it for my first book, but will definitely do it for my second.

    After the first revision I’ll send it to my beta readers. So, it’s the first draft, wait six weeks, revise, send out. With it I’ll include questions such as; where in the book were you when you first put it down, and why? Do you like MC? How do you feel about this character? And so on, though not too many. Don’t want it to be cumbersome.

    Any suggestions on what else I should do before I query book two would be very welcome.

  2. https://killzoneblog.com/2014/06/15-questions-for-your-beta-readers-and.html

    Good morning, Amanda. You have a well-defined plan that sounds like a new step to your process. It reminded of the recent post on 15 questions for your beta readers from Jodie Renner. The link is above. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    I find that some beta readers are better at line edits, while others have good insight at a bird’s eye view and can help with plot shifts and character motivation, etc. I also seek out those readers who can give insight on the emotional aspects. It takes time to develop your “go to” list of beta readers.

    After your beta reader phase and after you’ve revised to your satisfaction, you might consider a professional freelance editor if you can afford that option.

    Line edits are important in developing a professional proposal for submission, whether you hire out edit feedback or use trusted beta readers, but the bones of the story is plot and character motivation. A book doctor could help with that, or a core group of your beta readers who might be skilled at looking at the bigger picture. Good luck with your project, Amanda.

  3. My first draft is the fast and furious one–get it out and done. I set it aside for a few weeks, then read it again and mark up all the weak bits.

    Then draft 2 is the deepening draft–this takes the majority of the writing time. Making sure the structure works, checking all the character arcs, etc.

    Then I toss it to beta readers. Once they’ve chewed up further weak places and I’ve fixed those, then my editor gets the book. After final edits, off to the Internet it goes, and the next book begins.

    I pick my beta readers with care. I don’t want romance readers critiquing sci fi, nor do I want the hard sci fi readers looking at paranormal romance. I try to pair people with the stories they’re likely to enjoy. The critiques will likely be better.

    • A solid process, Kessie. It DOES take time to develop a good.beta group, skilled in different ways that you value from book to book.

      I’ve also sent out shorter review pages (1 to 3 chapters) with a more focused list of beta questions designed for feedback on pace, plot movement, character motivation, and reader expectation (where I ask for their feedback on where they think the plot is going next). It can be fun to defy their expectations. Thanks, Kessie.

  4. Jordan, despite the suggestion of my friend, Jim Bell, I don’t “first get it down, then get it right.” I write a chapter or so at a time, then the next day go back and read (and edit) the last part before starting the next. Thus, I edit as I go along.
    When I start a new novel, I write about 10,000 words, then ask my wife–my first reader, biggest fan, and severest critic–to comment. She’s pretty much on the nose with her suggestions (which have at least once included going back and scrapping what I’ve written so far…it happens).
    I have other writing friends who never let anyone see their work until it’s submitted. Different strokes, I guess.

    • Good morning, Richard. Like you, I have a rolling edit process. I get my daily word count in, but read & edit as I write forward. I go over each section many times while adding new parts. I’ve never written in drafts as many authors do. I like my process of layering and adding depth as I go. My first pass is always to delete and tighten. After that, I layer with emotion and deeper.character insight. When I get to the end, I make one or two final passes of reading it for enjoyment, then I’m DONE.

      I tend to get more beta reader feedback for my beginnings, then have a chosen few for the whole book, that I send in small sections with directed “homework” questions.

      If your wife is your critical eye and you’re still married, you must be doing something very right. Thanks, Richard.

  5. I finished my first novel three weeks ago then sent it to three Beta readers, who are avid readers, but not writers themselves, and who fall into my target audience. I gave them no instructions before reading, but after they finished, I asked these questions: what was your impression of the main character, did the story hold your interest throughout, or did it drag at any point, and did you think the story was too short, too long, or just about right?

    • Congratulations on finishing your first novel. How exciting. I’m happy for you. That’s a huge accomplishment. Sounds like you’ve made a great start to vet it too. It’s not easy to open yourself up to criticism. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Funny you should ask today…

    Just both from my critique group, which is really now down to two beta readers. My book is finished and already in copy editors but the changes my betas suggested were so great I just emailed my editor and got permission to rewrite two chapters.

    God watches over fools and writers…

    There is no substitute for people who will tell you the truth.

  7. I used beta readers for the first time for my latest (third) writing guide, and I gave them a list of questions that covered my own perceived weaknesses and bad habits, such as repetition. Their feedback was varied and invaluable! Some flagged typos awkward phrasing, and others went for the big picture, suggesting content and structural changes. I was worried going in, but it turned out to be a really positive, helpful experience! Whew!

    • Good for you, Jodie. I love the care you put to directed questions. Feedback can be a very positive experience with the right people.

      Thanks, Jodie

    • I learned a lot, Jodie, being one of your beta-readers. In many different ways: from what you have written in your book, about myself and my reactions to different aspects addressed in your books as well as shape and wording (usually what resonated with me, also was the most acute to be addressed in my writing), and the way you approached the beta-reading process. I will definitely use in the future some of the advice from your book on beta-reading process (the list with questions is a great inspiration) and also from the mails I have received from you as one of the beta-readers. Thank you. πŸ™‚

  8. My first novel was somewhat haphazard as it went through a few revisions midstream – when members of my writing group made suggestions/criticisms while I was writing. Final revision went to beta readers, was then submitted, and the publisher supplied the editor.

    Now I have adopted a rolling edit approach – re-reading previous day’s words – and leave off showing it until second draft done. Just revised a collection of shorts after beta readers made comments, and that is now with an editor prior to submission. Feels that this might work.

  9. For my first novel I took my first drafts of each scene to my critique group for feedback. I think they wanted to commit suicide.

    Now my first drafts are so much better, but I still edit them, and I only take the scenes that I know are weaker than they should be. But, generally, my current approach is to write the second draft of the entire manuscript, and then send it to several beta readers who are great at flaggiing structural and characterization weaknesses.

    Years from now, I’ll probably think that my current beta readers wanted to commit suicide as well. It’s amazing how I’ve grown as a writer.

  10. Thank you, Jordan for asking this question. It inspired me to think again of my dear beta-readers. I had two for my first novel and both have been simply amazing. Both read my book chapter by chapter and encouraged to write further. My niece (one of the two readers) has edited each chapter thoroughly (incl. earlier versions) and by this helped me avoid same errors throughout the book.
    And then a dear friend, whom I never met in person yet. She is a sweet lady in her seventies and found me through my blog. The friendship began and I started my first book. I told her about it and she got curious. I wanted to follow widely spread advice to complete the first draft first, but then she had difficulties with her health and cancer was one of suspects. So, I started sharing my book chapter by chapter. Good news that there is no cancer didn’t stop us to continue the chapter-cheering+great feedback exchange. What has started as a kind of gift from my side ended in a invaluable gift from her to me. I finished my novel and published it two days ago (out since yesterday).
    And this sweet person is the first one who reads my second novel now. Also chapter by chapter. πŸ™‚
    I definitely belong to one of the very lucky authors with the beta-readers, as well as editor and writing teacher being people I cherish and admire and who have been dear friends already before the project or became dear friends along the way.

  11. I belong to a critique group, myself as the only male along with 3 ladies. Early on in my membership we were reviewing my latest chapter, in which my protagonist reacts to his abrasive and slightly-drunk girlfriend by engaging in rough (and consensual) sex with her. I thought it was pretty well-written but the ladies hated it. They didn’t like him doing that. They were disappointed in him. I struggled not to take it personally, thought about it later and rewrote the scene with an alternate ending. It worked out much better.

  12. Nice point, David. It’s good you kept an open mind and took your time to think about it. I’m firmly convinced any scene can be rewritten multiple ways. And if a number of readers give you similar feedback, it usually is a good indicator that you should give their comments serious thought.

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