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Forming a Manuscript Critique Circle

Updated on May 11, 2010

Whether you are a novelist, a short story writer, an essayist, or some other form of creative writer, Fiction Factory would like to welcome you to our Critique Circle. Unlike most writers groups, it is a rather private and low-key affair, for reasons that I will set out to explain.

What to expect from a manuscript critique

Since there is no standard format, a manuscript critique may consist in anything the reviewer decides. Some critics will give you a general type of appraisal with some “pointers”; this may suffice for new authors seeking validation for whether their writing has merit, as well as for more experienced authors seeking to break new ground. Other critics, myself included, will try to give you a detailed report, including a set of recommendations, often accompanied by a copy of your manuscript with annotations.

The turnaround time for a manuscript critique can be anywhere from a few days to one month. With respect to short articles, I usually try to respond within a couple of days, whereas I will spend 1-2 weeks to critique a novel. I can review and annotate about 20 pages per hour; so you can do the math – a 100,000 word manuscript will take about 24 hours to critique, meaning it is best spread out over 2 weeks.

What is not included

A manuscript critique differs from an “edit” in one fundamental respect: The critic will not rewrite a single word, not change as much as a comma in your manuscript. Most professional editors make changes directly in your manuscript (word processor file), others prefer to make detailed markups in a printed version of the manuscript. However detailed the manuscript critique may be, this should be seen as a precursor to editing; not a substitution.

In my terminology, a manuscript critique also differs from a so-called “manuscript assessment.” Although there are some overlaps, the assessments done by literary consultants and manuscript consultants tend to include advice about what can be done to make the manuscript more publishable and marketable. Typically, a manuscript critique will not include these elements, as the focus is on the creative side of things.

Where to go next

Fiction Factory does not currently charge for manuscript critiques, with invitations being issued upon request. Furthermore, we are looking actively for new authors who would like to join our Critique Circle, where the members review each other’s manuscripts free of charge on a private, confidential basis. Please contact us to sign up.


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