Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Full Novel Review

Last year, Kevin and Chersti’s group did a full novel review: http://thescribblerscove.blogspot.com/2012/10/fnr-or-full-novel-review.html

What a great idea!

Our writer's group decided to do it, too. We set a goal to swap novels by January 1st. Honestly, we had no idea how big a whale we set out to eat (think a monster blue whale), but it was worth the effort.

First off, no matter the state our manuscript was in, we submitted on the due-date. Period. Not a day (or year) later.

Second, we each asked the critiquers for specific things we were looking for, like character arcs, plot, flow, etc.

Third, we put simple requirements on the reviewing process:
a)      Read the manuscript fast.
b)      Write a one page review. (Anyone who wanted to do more, could.)

The reviewing process was simple:

1)     Have a moderator.
2)     Review the good things about the story. 
3)     Review the things that needed work.
4)     Open it up for discussion.

Even though it was among friends, it was still a bit unnerving. Several people in the group felt my first hundred pages moved too slowly and didn’t help the plot.

Honesty. True Honesty. It’s a blessing that can hurt.

However, one of the benefits of a group review was it helped weed through the subjectivity and find things collectively-agreed-upon that needed attention. And yeah, even the subjective items were pretty on-target. The first hundred pages that did absolutely nothing for my story? Gone.

However - DISCLAIMER: After receiving a review, always allow yourself time to think it through. Make decisions after your emotions simmer down.

Long story short, I have a nice list of bullet points to work on. I have a growing respect for the power of various perspectives. I’m grateful for the time the others invested in my story, and hope as I review theirs, I use as much tact. (I expected a karate-chop, and all I got was a quick band-aid removal.)

And Kevin, thanks for telling us about it! It’s a great help.


  1. Really cute picture, Jonene. I've started doing this full novel review with some of the other writers in my neighborhood and I really enjoyed our first session. I volunteered to go last since it was my idea to put the group together... just being courteous... so we won't get around to my manuscript until later this year.

    Are you doing this with a writing group that has been getting together for a long time, or did you get together just for this full novel review?

    1. Rebecca, it's a little of both. Some of us have been in the same group for five years or more, and some joined last year. I'm glad you've done it, too. It helps to see more than a few pages or a few chapters at a time, like we used to, and the insight was invaluable.

    2. I think this kind of critique would be great for me since my flaws as a writer tend to be on the large scale, overall story problems. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

  2. A very interesting idea! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Susan! It was Kevin's post last year that got us going.

    2. Maybe we should do this FNR thing by skype sometime, Sue.

    3. Not a bad idea, for our little creative retreat group?

    4. Rebecca and Susan, one member of our writer's group lives in Oregon and has been participating in the group and reviews through skype. It works great!

    5. Yes, Sue, that's what I was thinking. Especially since I wanted to read the rest of the books we got a taste of anyways.

  3. Were these novels you'd already workshopped in bits and pieces, or was this a sight unseen beta read? All in all, very cool.

  4. Yes and yes. Four of the novels had been workshopped (at least the first three chapters). Two novels were brand new. One was Nano-ed from beginning to end in November and December and hadn't even had a read-through by the writer. It was fun to see the manuscripts in so many stages, and see the insights that came out.


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