If a writer friend has asked you to read and critique their work, they are giving you an enormous and honored responsibility. It is YOUR JOB as a reader to respond honestly…and compassionately….but also to help the writer envision what could happen.
Here are my reading guidelines:
After reading the novel, I tell the reader THREE THINGS that are really working in the draft. I try to be as specific as I can.
Then I get into the nitty gritty!
Title: does it make you want to read the book? What do you think the book is about?
First line/first page: are you hooked? Would you keep reading? Think about the inciting incident. (placement, effectiveness, ability to propel the plot forward) Was there a point where you got very excited about what might happen next?
Point of view character: Can you identify the main character? How quickly did you find the main character interesting? Why? How did the author pull you into the character’s head/story? Be specific, if you can. Do you know what that character wants and why? Are you excited to turn the page? Why?
Is the main character likeable? Talk about places where you took the character’s side…or you questioned the motivation of the main character.
Does the main character change during the story? How? Look at the places in the novel where that change begins. Describe the effectiveness of the important scenes. Does the main character cause the action in the story? Were there moments when the secondary characters took over the story?
Dialogue: Think about the sound of dialogue. Did it sound real? Appropriate use of tag lines? Beats? Does it push the story forward?
When do the secondary characters enter the story? Comment on the connectivity between the main characters at the beginning of the book. Were there characters you did not believe or want to know more about? What about their motivations??????
Is the antagonist worthy of your protagonist?
Narrative voice: How was it unique? Be specific.
Show versus telling? Tell the writer what scenes REALLY worked and why.
PLOT: Think about the rising action of the whole novel. Indicate shining plot points. Was the ending inevitable and surprising? Think about how the beginning and ending are connected.
Pick 1-2 memorable scenes in the novel. Why did they work? How many scenes could you describe without looking at the manuscript? If you were asked to convince another reader to buy this book, could you sell it?
Think about the characters that were present during the most important scenes. Were any characters missing from these scenes?
Was there a scene that could have been more exciting? Please be specific.
Was there a scene that confused you or seemed out of place?
Was there a scene that you skimmed? A place where you lost interest?
Did you guess/know the ending? Did this facilitate your enjoyment? Or hurt it?
Pacing: Look specifically at chapter endings and beginnings. How did the author handle the passage of time?
Description: Find moments where description enhanced a scene or mood.
Appropriate length? Places where the writer could have done more? Places that could be cut?
I learn SO MUCH from reading WIPs. I always share this with the writer. In the process of writing, we all learn from one another. I always THANK the writers who give me the opportunity to learn from them.