Feedback on Entire Novel Makes Difference

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Whole mss critique or chapter at a time critique?

I went to Idaho this weekend for a Novel Revision Retreat.

Whole mss critique. One thing I like about the Novel Revision Retreat is that it is set up to get feedback on an entire novel.

Upper Mesa Falls, Henry's Fork, Snake River, Idaho. Near the location for our Idaho retreat.

Upper Mesa Falls, Henry's Fork, Snake River, Idaho. Near the location for our Idaho retreat.

Many critique groups run on the idea that a person will submit a chapter or a designated amount of pages on a regular schedule, perhaps once a week or once a month. That works well, up to a point. Often, the time period in between critiques means that you’ve forgotten crucial details and must ask the author things like these: did you already cover this, when, how well, how was it worded.

I understand why critique groups do this type of schedule and I’m not discouraging it. This is valuable feedback, especially for line editing.

However, a full novel critique is also essential. Here, you look not so much at how well a chapter looks but how the story plays out over many pages. This lets you look at narrative arc, emotional arc, pacing, gaps in the story, continuity issues and so much more.

Indepth Feedback.The second thing the Novel Revision Retreat does is give you in-depth feedback on your entire novel. We cover about 8 areas of writing a novel, everything from characterization and dialogue to pacing. Then, there’s a group session in which the group discusses each novel in turn for how well the novel performs on the current topic. In depth feedback is invaluable. The number of group sessions allows some trust to build up and for a certain honesty to evolve. Certainly, the writers don’t agree with everything said in a group, but at least they’ve heard three different opinions.

In-depth feedback on a whole novel – it’s the best thing about the Novel Revision Retreat. You can do the same thing by agreeing to critique a whole novel from each member once a group. Or maybe you need a special critique group just for novelists. I’ve been a member of a special novel critique group. We have only four members, and have agreed to critique 2 full novels from each member each year. In reality, we usually just do one from each a year. But even if it was 2/year, that’s only 6 novels I’ve agreed to critique. It’s a workable solution to the need for a whole manuscript critique.

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1 Comment
  • Kristin Wolden Nitz
    May 3, 2010

    I definitely agree on the value of in-depth feedback on an entire novel. But it’s also nice to get feedback from trusted writers along the way. In fact, one of the reasons I’m so happy with the first chapter to a current project is that I received some feedback early in the process that helped me see that I didn’t need certain characters.

    Someday the timing and location will be right for me to make it to one of these novel retreats.