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.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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