A Letter To Those Whose Manuscripts I Critique

(And since I was in the mood to talk about beta reading…)

A letter to all the people whose manuscripts I critique.

(Bear with me, it gets kinda long.)

I do not claim to be an expert in writing or grammar. Everything I say comes from my own experiences, and what I’ve learned. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m right. And if I’ve read one story of yours already, I’m gonna skip the disclaimer because you know the final decision comes down to you anyways.

And I know I sometimes mark things that are more a style issue,
but you know… I can’t help it. Feel free to ignore my comments.

And sometimes I get lazy. Do you know how many times I’m writing a comment, and then I have to go back and change a period to a question mark? A lot. I don’t know why I forget the question mark, because I know I’m writing a question, but it happens. A lot. So from now on, I’m not going to waste time going back and inserting that question mark. I will assume you can deduce it is a question even though it ends in a period.

And other punctuation. In my comments, I’m probably gonna forget to add the comma before the conjunction of 2 independent clauses. But in your ms, I’m probably going to add too many commas, even when it COULD fall under the exception rule and even though it seems like everybody’s doing it. But hey, I like commas.

And echoes. I used to mark them all—you know, highlight them so you could see them. But not anymore. I’m just gonna highlight one and make you find the rest. But… if I see several, I’ll let you know that. Otherwise you can assume it’s just one. And just cause I mark it doesn’t mean I think you should change it. But I want to bring it to your attention, in case you want to change it.

And I’m sorry that when I insert a suggestion into your sentence, I have started NOT crossing out the stuff I think doesn’t belong. But again, I think you are smart enough to figure that out.

And I used to say stuff like, show, don’t tell. But now I’ve been writing: telling. Or even telly. Cause I think that’s kinda funny.

And I like to make up new words. (Well someone else probably used them, but I didn’t until now.) Info-dumpy is my latest. It also makes me laugh.

And I think comma splice is much cooler than run-on. So to anyone I beta-ed for last fall or before, I’m now using comma splice instead of run-on. (And technically, they’re not the same thing, but the fix is just the same.) And hopefully I’ll remember to tell you that I changed what I called it. (Oh, I guess I just did right there.)

And I use way too many smiley faces. 🙂

And ‘clunky’ means the same thing as ‘awkward’ which means the same thing as ‘I stumbled over this’ which means the same thing as ‘um… huh?’ I bounce back and forth on what I use.

And I hope you don’t mind personal comments that have nothing to do with your story. But it just crossed my mind at that moment, and I thought it was important to mention it. Although we both know it wasn’t.

And sometimes I think I’m funny, when I’m not. I hope you don’t take it personally. If I feel comfortable doing so, I will probably insert more ‘funny’ comments. If I don’t know you so well, I won’t.

And sometimes I way over-explain stuff. But that might be because I tend to ramble,
or…I’m figuring it out as I’m typing. And instead of going back and editing my comment, I’ll just leave it be.

And sometimes I’m not clear on my explanation. I will admit in my comment if I don’t really know why I don’t like something. Sometimes things just don’t feel good, but I can’t say why. But please ask me if you don’t know what I’m talking about, because I know I’m not always clear on what I write. (Like this paragraph.)

And sometimes I’ll make suggestions on how to fix something. But other times I don’t because a.) I’m sure you can figure it out, or b.) I’m lazy, or
C.) I have no clue what to do, I just know it needs fixing.

And feel free to tell me if I told you something wrong. (I’ll just need proof and then we’ll move on. 🙂 And feel free to tell me if you’re on a deadline, and I need to work faster. I’ll try.
And this is going way too long, although I could probably write more. So in closing… I love critiquing stories and have learned so much. Thank you to: Stacy, Liz, Theresa, Jo, Jade, Kim, Lynne, Cassie Mae & Lara for allowing me to be a part of your novel’s journey. Because although publishing my own story rates as the coolest thing ever, being a part of someone else’s novel is right up there too. And I would read any of your other stories in a heartbeat.

And I promise to do the best job I can.

10 Responses

  1. You know, there comes a time where writers need to put on their big-writer undies and just suck up what a critique partner has to say. We can get our feelings all hurt, or we can accept that, as you said, the writer gets the final say. Often, after I’ve gotten a critique back, I’ll feel anxious that the person might notice I didn’t change everything they suggested. Isn’t that funny! When it comes down to it, writing is soooo subjective that we all are doing our best and making the best choices we can – including when we critique.

    I still think you’re wonderful, and am glad you use lots of smiley faces. And are honest with your opinions!

  2. Oh my gosh, I love your notes! I seriously laughed the whole way through, even when i slapped my forehead countless times. (I still think about the nightstand water fountain, and giggle like a crazy person, lol) You are one of those crit partners who know what they are doing. You make wonderful observations, and know how to deliver them in a way that doesn’t sound mean. and for the most part, even though in the end it was my call, I agreed with you on a lot of things. I feel the same way with my other cps 😉 Without all you guys, my books would suck major!

  3. Suzi you are awesome that is all. Actually no it’s not. lol Your opinion means so much to me and I appreciate the time you take to point out those comma splices and where I use the same word nine hundred times in one chapter. Your smiley faces make me smile and your stories always make me laugh. You’re a lot funnier than you think. Even this post had me laughing. So thank you for being you. I can’t wait to see your writing career take off because it’s obvious nothing will stop you. Okay now you can go through this comment and point out all my grammar errors 🙂 while I go email you about a particular someone who probably should have taken your advice lol 😉

  4. Rachel Schieffelbein

    This made me laugh. “But it just crossed my mind at that moment, and I thought it was important to mention it. Although we both know it wasn’t.” I do that, too. 🙂

  5. So much good advice! I see some of the tricks and funny things I do as well. I think I’ll pick up a few and use them too. Anything to make critiquing more fun for me and the person I’m reading for!

  6. Suzi, what can I say? This cracked me up and I LOVE getting a critique from you. You’re so literal and ‘eagle-eyed’ on so many things. The ‘echos’ don’t get past you and every one of your notes I take onboard. I know my work has grown because of your edits so THANK YOU!!! xxx

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