By Cindy L. Rodriguez

Reason Breaks Blended CollageToday is the official release day of When Reason Breaks, my debut young adult contemporary novel published by Bloomsbury! Yay! The novel is about two girls, both sophomores in high school, who struggle with depression in different ways. Here’s part of the official description:

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

To celebrate my journey, which started seven years ago, I’m sharing some pictures I took along the way.


IMG_3086This first picture represents the writing, revising, and editing phase done alone and then with critique partners. It took me three years to write the draft that I used to query agents. Yes, that’s a long time, but I was working a full-time job and a part-time job, while single-parenting. My writing place is on my bed, and without fail, my dogs–first Rusty (RIP) and now Ozzie–have kept me company. This has been very sweet, except for the times they pawed the keyboard. Notice the guilty look in his eyes.




IMG_1294I landed an agent, Laura Langlie, after a few months of querying. I revised based on her feedback, and then the manuscript went out on submission. It stayed out there for a long, long time. We received some valuable feedback after the first round, so I revised again and went back out on submission. Finding the right agent and editor is kind of like literary You might go on lots of dates that don’t work, but that’s okay, because the goal is finding the perfect person. So, it took a long time, but the book landed with the perfect person, Mary Kate Castellani at Bloomsbury. This is a picture of the manuscript next to my contract. Receiving the contract is one of those “oh-my-goodness-this-is-happening” moments. At this point, the deal had already been announced online, but seeing the contract in black-and-white makes it real.


IMG_4414AHHHHH! ARCs. This was a big moment. I didn’t taken any pictures during revising and copy editing. They wouldn’t have been pretty. But, please know that a lot goes on between the previous picture and this one (major understatement). After revisions, the manuscript went to copy edits. That day was significant because it meant drafting, for the most part, was over. Changes could still be made, but the story moved from creation into production. I received a blurb from the amazing Margarita Engle, and the cover was revealed. Soon after, these beauties arrived at my house. And AHHHHH! ARCs! Even though I had seen all the pieces–manuscript, blurb, cover art–it was different seeing it all put together in book form.



The ARCs went on tour to other authors debuting in 2015, friends, and family. I also gave a couple away on Goodreads. This was the copy that went to the first winner, Ali. I have signed thousands of things, but this was the first time I signed a copy of my novel. Around this time, the book was listed on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other places and became available for pre-order. Holy wow!

And people were actually reading the book, which, of course, was always the goal, but as ARCs went out and reviews popped up, I became aware that what had once belonged to me–what had only existed in my head and heart–was really out in the world. Here is photographic evidence of actual reading going on.



image_3Now that ARCs were out in the world, I considered ways to help market the novel. One thing I learned from other authors was that I had to do my part when it came to marketing. I didn’t go overboard with swag. I decided to create a book trailer and print book marks and postcards with a QR code linked to the book trailer.

The book trailer was a fun, family experience. My sister’s dining room table was the work station, with my image_2nephew–a high school freshman–doing all of the real tech work. He’s a genius with computers, so he handled putting it all together. The opening voice belongs is my niece, and I narrate the rest of it, although my voice was altered to be lower and much cooler, in my opinion. Bookmarks have been distributed to teachers, librarians, and bloggers. Postcards went to high schools, public libraries, and independent bookstores in Connecticut, in addition to some libraries and bookstores in other parts of the country. Writers always question “what works,” and I think the answer is different for each of us. Bookmarks worked for me because I’m a teacher and I have lots of teacher friends who asked for 50-100 at a time. I knew they’d get into the hands of teen readers. Also, I have received some positive feedback from the postcards. A few librarians emailed me saying they received the post card, viewed the trailer, and planned to order the book; some even invited me to participate in events. So, in my mind, these three things were worth it.


While the ARCs were “out there,” the manuscript continued to be worked on through copy editing and then first pass pages, which should be called the 100th pass pages because everyone involved had read the manuscript so many times. First pass pages are cool because the manuscript is typeset, rather than being on regular paper in the standard 12-point Times Roman. After the first pass pages were returned to the publisher, the next time I saw my novel, it was in……..






These came earlier than expected, so I was surprised when I found them on my doorstep. My daughter hugged me and said, “Wow, Mom, they’re beautiful. Congratulations.” I might have gotten a little teary eyed. That day, I donated a copy to my local library and then brought copies to my family. My mom cried when she saw it. My mom doesn’t cry easily. I might have gotten a little teary eyed then, too.

During this last month before publication, I’ve been excited and nervous and, most of all, grateful. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in this process. It takes a village to write and publish a book, and because of everyone who supported me along the way, I saw my novel on a shelf in Barnes & Noble for the first time this past weekend. Wow!

image (4)

Available at:

Indiebound Barnes & Noble | Amazon Powell’s Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Target

And please look for it at your local libraries.

The Road to Publishing: Giving Good Feedback to Fellow Writers

By Stephanie Guerra

Last month, I began a two-post series addressing the most productive ways to work with beta readers and critique groups. The first installment focused on receiving feedback; in this post, I’ll focus on how to offer good feedback.

Beta readers and critique groups are critical to the writing process, and many successful authors find a long-term writing partner with whom they work productively for years. How can you nurture critique relationships—notoriously sensitive—so that they grow and flourish?

Here’s a quick and dirty list of strategies:

peer review1. Ask the type and level of feedback your partner is seeking. Type addresses the range of feedback your partner desires. Global? Character-focused? Plot-focused? Language-focused? Line-editing? Level addresses the thoroughness of your feedback. For a first draft, many writers want general, light feedback, including global impressions of plot and characters. If you pick apart the draft line by line, your partner may be overwhelmed. Be sure to clarify what he or she is looking for before diving in.

2. Offer an even trade. If someone has given you careful, in-depth feedback on one of your manuscripts, be sure to reciprocate in full. Do not read through his or her work quickly and toss off your thoughts as you hurry to get back to your own project. Your writing partner is relying on you and may make significant changes to their manuscript based on your advice. So give his or her work the time and respect it deserves.

3. Link up with writers who are roughly in your skill/professional range. Great disparities in talent can cause awkwardness, and trades may not be productive for the more advanced partner. That said, if you’re willing to consider a mentor relationship (no matter which end you’re on), go for it! Just don’t expect that trades will be “even”.

4. Find the positives. This seems obvious, but having been through an MFA, I know it needs to be said. Critique partners should be honest—but not brutally honest. Remember that no matter how elementary or flawed your partner’s work appears to you, it represents their effort and passion. Find at least three things to praise before you point out what’s not working.

5. Watch for cues. In the case of verbal feedback, watch and listen to the writer’s facial expressions, body language, and words as they receive feedback. If you sense distress, stop. Bring up the positives. Inspiration is a fragile thing and people have varying degrees of sensitivity about their work. You don’t want to be the Dream Crusher.

Editing16. Know when to back out. Sometimes (especially on first trades, but
occasionally with tried-and-true partners) you’ll run into a piece you simply can’t stomach. Maybe the writing is terrible. Maybe the message goes against everything you believe. Maybe the manuscript feels too commercial. Whatever the reason, if you can’t stand it, you won’t be able to offer a good or fair critique. Be diplomatic: “I’m having a hard time with this piece. I’m not experienced with this genre/topic/style. I’m afraid my political views are getting in the way of my ability to hear your story.” Whatever. Let the writer know you’re biased, and wiggle out gently.

7. Have boundaries. This is a good life rule, no? It definitely applies to writing. Critiques are so personal, and for many, so emotional, that they can unleash a storm of follow-up emails and phone calls. If you feel that someone is demanding more of your time and hand-holding than makes you comfortable, repeat (in as many different ways as you need to): “I really don’t have anything to add to what I’ve already said. But good luck.”

8. Don’t argue. Some writers can’t help themselves; they’re compelled to defend their work in the face of a critique. If you’re the partner giving feedback in this situation, don’t engage. Offer your counsel, and let the writer argue and justify if they need to. It’s all part of the process. Some people work things out verbally.

9. Don’t be the alpha critic. I borrowed this one from William Zinsser. Nobody likes the snide, superior critic who has scathing reviews of everything! ‘Nuf said.

10. Be open-minded. You’ll run into all kinds of manuscripts on the trade routes, not all of them your cup of tea. Remember, you’re not buying the book. Unless you have a visceral hatred of the work (see number 6), give it a fair shot. Try to separate your personal taste from your professional knowledge of character development, plot trajectory, etc. If personal taste is causing your review to slant negative or positive, rethink your approach.

The Road to Publishing: a Q & A with Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda Books

On Tuesday, Ashley Hope Pérez laid out what it’s like to work with rock star editor Andrew Karre , editorial director of Carolrhoda Books, Carolrhoda Lab & Darby Creek. Today, we have a bonus post, a Q&A between Ashley and Andrew, the last piece in our “Road to Publishing” series. We hope it’s been helpful! All of the posts can now be found if you click on the “The Road to Publishing Series” tab on the menu.

Ashley: What are the rookie mistakes you see first-time authors make during the editorial process?

Andrew: Rushing revisions. There are no points for speed. Although I hope I’ve learned enough to anticipate this and prevent it.

Ashley: What qualities make you look forward to working with an author again on a future project? Any deal-breakers?


Andrew: A spirit of adventure. The authors I most enjoy working with are excited about the process. They like to use me as a sounding board, as a stress-test for their work. They want to hear my questions and suggestions, but they’re quite capable of going an entirely different direction. I’m not interested in authors who unquestioningly adopt my view of YA fiction. I’m interested in authors who will engage with it and articulate their own. In many cases, editing is a bit of a friendly struggle between the author and me wherein my goal is to lose in an interesting way that highlights the author’s strengths.

Ashley: In what way(s) does your approach to the editing process differ from other editors you know or have worked with?

Andrew: It’s hard to say. I only have second-hand information about how others edit. I tend not to write editorial letters. I prefer to write voluminous marginal notes and have lots of phone conversations (or lunches, whenever possible). Maybe that’s unusual? My goal in a markup is to highlight the places where an author is at the height of her powers and then challenge her to meet that standard throughout.

Ashley: Boundary-pushing is arguably your editorial signature. How does that priority influence the guidance you offer authors during the editing process?

Andrew: I don’t really think about that when we’re editing. Editing is about realizing and reconciling a manuscript’s potential and its author’s vision. It’s about pleasing the two of us, first and foremost. Insofar as we worry only about the limitations inherent in the manuscript, I guess the desire to be unbound is present.

Ashley: Beyond writing (and revising) a novel into its best possible form, what should authors be doing from the time they sign their contract to the time of the book’s release?

Social-media-for-public-relations1Andrew: There are a few practicalities every author should take care of–at least by that point if not sooner. Acquire all your digital real- estate. By that I mean, register a useful domain name, grab a good Twitter handle, etc.  Even if you can’t see how you’ll use them, at least you’ll have them. The only one of these that costs anything is the domain, and that’s cheap. Then, read your contemporaries. And if you can, interact with them as a colleague and fellow traveler. Join the conversations online in much the way you’d join a dinner party conversation: wait for your opening, and take it graciously when it comes. Be interesting, first and foremost. It’s not about selling.

Ashley: I distinctly remember a come-to-Jesus talk we had about social media some time between revisions for What Can’t Wait and the book’s launch day. I remember feeling very overwhelmed. Now, four years down the line, I can see lots of benefits from the relationships that I’ve established by existing online and at least intermittently being present in Twitter and other spaces.

At Latin@s in Kid Lit, we’re working to draw more attention to great books for younger kids as well as teens. What are some of your favorite books to read to or with your boys?  Do their preferences ever surprise you?

Andrew: Henry (5) loves nonfiction at the moment. He loves processes and technical details so we read a lot of things in that vein. I really loved Building Our House by Jonathan Bean. In the coverage of the death of Charlotte Zolotow, we discovered her Over and Over, and that’s been fun.  I still enjoy reading Goodnight Moon to Edmund (18 months).

Ashley: What’s one book that you hope to find in your stocking this holiday season?

Andrew: I still haven’t read NW by Zadie Smith and I generally enjoy her work.

Ashley: Any thoughts on the current state of publishing with regard to the percentages of works by/for/about Latin@s?

Andrew: It seems to me that the level of awareness of the need among publishers is high, as is the desire to find and break out new voices. High enough? I don’t know if it’s possible to say. I know I’m encouraged.

The Road to Publishing: One Take on Working with a (Rock Star) Editor

By Ashley Hope Pérez

In articles and blog posts about breaking into the world of publishing, the lion’s share of attention goes to the writing craft, getting an agent, and securing a book deal. But what happens after those hurdles have been jumped? What can writers expect from their editors once the deal is sealed? And what will editors expect from writers?

The Knife and the ButterflyBecause writer-editor relationships are endlessly varied, I don’t actually have the answers to these questions. In fact, as I started writing this post, I realized that the only thing I am really qualified to talk about are my experiences working with Andrew Karre, my editor at Carolrhoda Lab. Andrew bought my first two novels, What Can’t Wait and The Knife and the Butterfly, in a two-book deal back in 2009, and now I am in the beginning stages of working with Andrew on a third novel. I can’t say what it’s like for other writers, although you can find some descriptions of authors’ experiences with editors, my favorite being the five perspectives offered up hereWhat Can't Wait

For the editor’s perspective, check out this post from Scholastic imprint editor Cheryl Klein, who also has a book on editing YA. Andrew will stop by the blog on Thursday to toss in his two cents on editorial work; if you want to balance some of my gushing below with more objective reporting, you can read this feature on him in Publisher’s Weekly.

Enough preliminaries. Here’s the scoop I can offer on working with my editor.

What happens after you sign the contract with a publisher? Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. I remember expecting to hear from Andrew the day after the contract was signed, but often there’s a considerable lag (months, friends) between sealing the deal and getting the feedback that will guide the revision. Editors are working on dozens of projects—all in different stages—at any given point. The good ones are expert at juggling these demands and giving each project what it needs.

Isn’t it painful to be told how to revise? To start with, I have to say that Andrew is as close to my “ideal reader” as I expect ever to find. With all three novels, he has grasped the essential aspects of the projects as well as (or better than) I did myself. This fact secures my total confidence in his intuition and editorial recommendations; on top of that, I’ve benefitted from his ability to see subterranean connections that invited development as well as other missed opportunities. So even what might have been “pain” in the process invariably felt crucial to the mission of making the book what it was meant to be.

keep-calm-and-revise--718I should also say that the thought of revision is what gets me through the agony of drafting; revision is my happy zone, where things finally come together. I don’t mind cutting scenes or paragraphs or sentences that I love. I don’t mind writing new material. I don’t mind collapsing subplots, ditching characters, or even radically altering the point of view for 100,000 words of prose. I don’t mind because when Andrew tells me to do these things, I instantly see how much sense they make. For me, Andrew’s vision manages to expand the story’s possibilities while also clarifying what needs to be done to achieve those possibilities.

How, specifically, does the editing happen? I’ve often heard writer friends discuss the editorial letter, which I’m told is a fairly formal write-up of all the things that need to be done in revision for a manuscript to be acceptable to the editor. (More discussion of the editorial letter and an example here ) The editorial letter reflects the major first pass of editing and defines the focal areas for the main revision, after which (everyone hopes) it will be mostly scene- and sentence-level rewriting.

Unless I have suffered some serious memory loss—which is possible since I gave birth to my son during the early editorial process with What Can’t Wait—I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a formal editorial letter from Andrew. Instead, we tend to have several hour-longish phone calls where he tells me what his instincts are as far as what could or should change in the manuscript and why. Perhaps what is most important to me about how these things go is that the “why” is always intimately linked to the internal logic of the novel or its essential characteristics (as opposed, for example, to trends in the market or notions of what teens can “handle”). These conversations generally entail multiple epiphanies on my part and copious note-taking. The macro-level feedback from the phone calls comes along with scene-by-scene feedback via comments and edits in Word.

After responding to the major editorial feedback (over 2-5 months), I submit to Andrew my “final” manuscript. Once he reads and accepts it, I get the second half of the advance (the first half comes with signing the contract). There is still some back and forth and perhaps even some more substantive changes, but all the major pieces are in place. There will be at least one more full read-through with comments to address before the book goes to the next stage of copy-editing (line-by-line stuff and the standardization of things like “OK” for “okay” according to the publisher’s house style), which is done by wonderful people who work under Andrew.

2-14Book-MakingWhat’s next? Then the book goes into production, and a while later (3-6 months) I get an email with galleys that give an idea of what the manuscript will look like as a “real” book. There will also be drafts of jacket copy, which I’m glad I don’t have to write, and cover designs. With What Can’t Wait, I wasn’t in on anything until after the final cover was chosen; with The Knife and the Butterfly, I saw about a dozen preliminary designs and got to weigh in on their relative merits. From contract to the printing of advance reader copies, the process has taken between a year and two.

Any words of advice for those on the road to publishing? The truth is that—at least for your first book—you will have little say in who your editor is. Your agent will submit the book where she or he thinks it’s a good fit, and if an editor bites and makes a reasonable offer, your agent will advise you to accept. There is no room in this process for mailing editors personality tests to check for compatibility.

What you can do is embrace the editorial process as an opportunity to discover more about your novel and your work as a writer. I find that the writer-editor dynamic—inevitably centered on the book—creates an amazing triangle of insight inside of which all kinds of possibilities for the story come into focus. I hope that’s the case for many other writers, too.

The Road to Publishing: Going on Submission

By Cindy L. Rodriguez

At this point, you have written a novel with the help of critique groups and beta readers and landed your agent of choice thanks to a killer query letter. Now what?

Before I answer that, I want to emphasize that each writer’s road to publication is different. The process so far–write book, write query letter, get an agent–can play out in myriad ways. Some writers craft a book quickly and wait a long time to connect with the right agent. Some complete several manuscripts before moving ahead in the process. Others choose not to have an agent at all. Please remember there is no one way or right way to get your work published. In general, however, if you plan to head down the traditional publishing path, then you will likely follow the basics outlined in our series so far: write book, craft the query letter, land an agent.

Now what? Your agent may ask you to further revise your novel before it’s ready to submit to editors. When the manuscript is ready, your agent will send it to certain editors based on her experience and knowledge of the editors and publishing houses.

And what do you do? You wait and worry and dream and go to your day job and clean the house until it’s sparkling and check your email a thousand times a day at least and then you try to calm down by reminding yourself it’s out of your hands and after a few deep breaths and zen-like moments, you start a new project and whenever you have a moment, you refresh your email again and again.

Or, maybe that was just me. Like I said, everyone is different. In general, though, many writers agree that the process includes angst-filled waiting because your manuscript is now in the hands of editors, the people who may fall in love with your novel, take it to internal meetings, and offer you a contract.

At this point, the process can take weeks, months, or years. Your friend could sell her novel at auction to a major publishing house with a six-figure advance. You may be rejected dozens of times before receiving a contract. You will both end up on bookshelves, no matter how you got there. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. You will, but you shouldn’t.

Back to the process…editors will read your novel and say yes, no, or maybe but we want you to revise and resubmit. If the novel doesn’t sell, you and your agent may discuss the patterns in the rejections. If certain aspects are routinely criticized, then your agent may ask you to revise further before you go out on another round of submissions. This is exactly what happened to me.

I began working with Laura Langlie in August 2010. I revised certain chapters based on her notes, and we went on submission a few months later. Some editors responded within weeks, while others took months. This is normal. After a series of rejections, an editor expressed interest but wanted some changes. I revised and resubmitted the first eight chapters. After a few months of waiting, we learned she had left the business completely. Sigh.

I revised the rest of the novel in the vein of chapters 1-8. Once done, Laura submitted it to another batch of editors. More rejections–some very flattering, some not so much–and more submissions. In June 2012, we received an enthusiastic response from Mary Kate Castellani from Bloomsbury/Walker. She asked me to revise and resubmit the first nine chapters. After reading those, she gave me the thumbs-up to keep going. I completed the revision, and Mary Kate shared the novel with her team. We had an offer in March 2013.

I have since done another major revision and am currently working on what should be the last round of writing before it moves along in the process. Right now, the novel is scheduled to be published in Winter 2015 by Bloomsbury.

This was my first novel ever. I expected to make lots of revisions, but the thing is, I agreed with the suggestions. I didn’t make changes along the way only because I wanted to get published. I revised each time because I knew my agent’s or editor’s suggestions would improve the story. This back-and-forth between the writer, agent, and editor could make or break the submission process. As a writer, I often asked myself:

What is the heart of the story? Can I cut this or add that and maintain the heart of the narrative? The answer was yes.

And what is the goal? The goal is to share this story, to take it from notes on napkins to hardcover.

Do I trust my agent and editor? Are they respectful, professional, and enthusiastic? The answer was always yes.

So I trusted them, revised, and I made it through a long submission process that required a lot of work. In the end, I knew without a doubt that my much-improved novel landed in the right place.

Best of luck to all of you on submission! Please share your experiences with us in the comments.

The Road to Publishing: Receiving Feedback from Beta Readers & Critique Groups

For this series of posts, we are writing about the road to publishing. You should start with our overview. Today, Stephanie discusses beta readers and critique groups.

By Stephanie Guerra

How important are beta readers and critique groups to the writing process? Take a look at any acknowledgments page for a quick answer: very. Beta readers provide much-needed perspective for authors who’ve seen the same pages often enough to recite them from memory. They contribute feedback that ranges from formative to collaborative to editorial to cosmetic. Some of the feedback is valuable; some isn’t. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

I’d like to share a list of tips for the most effective ways to work with beta readers and critique groups. This list is focused on productively receiving feedback; I’ll post another later on giving effective feedback.

Over the past decade, I’ve done an MFA in creative writing, I’ve had critique partners, I’ve participated in writing groups, I’ve worked with teachers who run student writing groups, and I’ve taken four books through the editorial process. Please take what’s useful from my thoughts; leave the rest. That’s the first rule for this list and any other advice you’re offered as a writer!

Seek criticism. Seems obvious, right? But many writers secretly want cheer leading rather than tough feedback—and many beta readers and critique groups are (understandably) hesitant to offer truly honest criticism. Writers tend to be sensitive and beta readers are often friends or colleagues with investment in the relationship. My strategy is to insist verbally and then repeat in an email that I want the toughest criticism my beta reader can offer, and that I see it as a major gift. If the critique still comes back too glowing, I’ll ask further questions, specifically targeting areas I know need work.

Don’t argue or explain. Resist the temptation to justify your work. When a beta reader offers criticism, take it as the gift that it is, take notes (if appropriate), and listen carefully. If the feedback raises further questions, feel free to ask them. But don’t tell the beta reader why they’re wrong or what they missed.

Choose your critique partners and beta readers carefully. Not everyone is skilled at offering useful feedback. It’s best when your partners are professional writers as good as or better than you, industry professionals, or literature/writing professors. Of course, that’s in an ideal world. Many people who are simply avid readers can give great feedback, especially when guided by questions from the author.

Try out different writing group formats. There are many ways of running critique groups. One popular method involves members reading aloud from their work while the group follows along on hard copies, making notes. After the reading, there’s a group discussion. I find this method frustrating in general but sometimes useful for moral support and fine-tuning. I’m a novelist and I need big-picture feedback on full manuscript drafts. However, this format works well for people who want to take a picture book, short piece of writing, or single scene to the next level.

Image from Creative Commons

Another format involves emailing work ahead of time to members, who then read it and prepare feedback (usually in writing) to be discussed at the meeting. I like this option better than the first; I think digestion time is conducive to stronger feedback.

However, after ten years of experimenting, I’ve decided writing groups eat up too much of my time without enough to show for it. I now focus exclusively on manuscript trades (or other trades) with trusted writer friends and beta readers.

Offer trades. Don’t lose sight of the fact that when you ask for feedback, you’re asking for a significant amount of work from someone. No matter how graciously your reader refuses, insist on a trade of some sort. If he or she is a novelist, offer a critique—even if it’s a future critique. If your reader is in another line of work, offer something. And don’t take no for an answer. Free babysitting, a gift card, a gift basket… something to show you recognize and appreciate his or her time and effort.

Don’t ask for another read too quickly on the heels of the first. (e.g. “I made some changes. Now could you read it again and tell me what you think?”) First of all, the changes you made probably aren’t as significant as you think they are. Second, it can be torture to reread anything but a cherished classic, let alone someone else’s work-in-progress. If at all possible, seek a different reader for the new draft.

Guide the feedback. Don’t be afraid to state exactly what you’re hoping to get out of a critique. “I’m ready to submit this and all I want is fine tuning and line editing.” Or “I’m struggling with the narrative arc, and need you to tell me where it feels slow.” Or “Can you read for Joanna’s character, paying attention to when you start to distrust her and when you know for sure she’s mentally ill?” Be specific and offer a written list of questions or areas of concern.

patienceBe patient. You handed off the manuscript yesterday, you’re doing the math, and if your book was really interesting, he’d have started last night and finished by now! So where’s his email? A joke, but not that far off from how some of us feel when handing off our newborn. Remember that the urgency is yours and yours alone. The manuscript is just another thing on your beta reader’s giant to-do pile. So cut him or her some slack. Don’t pester. I’d say two months is a fair wait before a nudge. (Although I’d skip nudging altogether if possible.

Notice trends. If you hear the same feedback from several readers, it’s definitely something to work on.

Know your readers and their talents. People have different kinds and levels of skill in offering feedback. Some are great at big-picture feedback. Some can nail plot problems and suggest fixes. Others have a feel for characters or language. And a few gems can do everything. Know your beta readers’ strengths and ask for critiques correspondingly. For instance, don’t give your copy editor friend a first draft. Do ask your character-savvy reader to take a look at an early draft to give a thumbs up or down to your cast.

I thought I’d stop with ten, but this one has to be said. Enjoy the process, take the criticism, and realize that none of this is a huge deal in the grand scheme. We’re just lucky to be writing!