Saturday, February 16, 2013


by Susanne lakin

Just the word alone makes many authors cringe. Why? Because it reminds us of another word that has a negative connotation: criticism. Yet, as authors we understand the need to have another pair of eyes look closely at our manuscript and give us constructive advice and direction so we can make our book the absolute best it can be. And the best person to give a critique is someone with years of experience in the publishing industry.
Some copyeditors claim you should never get a critique because it is entirely subjective. They say you should just get your book edited by a copyeditor and fix all the grammatical mistakes. Getting a thorough copyedit is essential. But few writers think about getting their book critiqued first. However, in my twenty-five years of experience writing novels, becoming a multipublished author, and working professionally as a copyeditor and writing coach in the publishing industry, I have come to conclude that most authors–whether a new writer or seasoned published author–need a critique and preferably in the early draft of their manuscript.

Yes, Critiques are Subjective

Sure, critiques are subjective. But when your novel or nonfiction manuscript lands on a literary agent’s desk, or is placed in an acquisition editor’s hands, it will be read subjectively as well. But here’s the thing authors need to understand: a professional in the publishing industry will temper a subjective read with years of experience; an understanding of current market needs and trends; establish or accepted writing styles, structure, and formatting; and a honed sense for an original and compelling writer’s voice. There is no such thing as an objective critique, but that should not be an issue.

A Kind and Gentler Critique

As an author who has gone through the trials, frustrations, setbacks, disappointments (need I go on?) along the road to publication, I bring to my critiques some things that perhaps a copyeditor or even another critiquer may not. When I critique your manuscript, my goal is to not only help you make your book shine, make it all you envision for it but also to encourage you, instruct you, and help you along this rocky road. A good critique should not come across as a nice pat on the back with a few muttered words like “Good job. Keep it up.” However, we as writers grow attached to our words, and an insensitive editor can cause a lot of pain. It takes courage to hand your project over to someone–this book you’ve spent months or perhaps years writing, sweating over, all the while second-guessing yourself and the merits of your book–only to have someone heartlessly rip it to shreds. For that’s our greatest fear–that despite all our hard efforts, we may have produced something that should go in the round file.

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