Shades of Critique

I recently read a novel manuscript for an experienced novelist; this novelist has turned the manuscript in to the editor, but it’s not yet in its final version. That made me think about critiquing, and all the different shades of critique depending on what the author needs.

How deeply do you read? What aspects of the story do you focus upon?

First and foremost, I tailor the critique to what the author has asked for, which is often related to the state of the manuscript. In this case, it’s at a very late stage; moreover, the book is second in a series. I thus didn’t read with the idea of suggesting big, sweeping plot changes. Nor did I read for typographical errors, since hopefully the publisher will take care of that further down the road.

Primarily, I looked at one aspect of the story about which I was specifically asked. I used that lens to scrutinize every bit of characterization and plot, to see if any of them came up wanting, or perhaps even went too far. It’s an off-center way to look at things, but I knew the author has other readers, some of whom will likely be looking at the story more generally.

Secondarily, I looked at the story more generally myself, because I can’t help but do so when in a critical frame of mind: what flowed, what didn’t; what confused me; in the worldbuilding, what was reiterated too often and what wasn’t mentioned enough. And all of that is also a lens, since it’s my eyes that are looking and not anyone else’s.

Published by Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s writing showcases her voracious lifelong love of books. She reads over 120 new books each year, especially historical romance, fantasy, and space opera, and incorporates these genres into her erotic fiction. Her first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. When not writing, Victoria conducts research in libraries and graveyards, lectures about writing and selling erotica, and speaks at literary conventions on topics such as paranormal romance, urban fantasy, erotic science fiction/fantasy, and the empowerment of women through unconventional means. Her daily writing blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and author interviews. She also guest blogs for Heroes & Heartbreakers and The Criminal Element. She lives in Philadelphia.