by Lillian Csernica on August 23, 2016
Whether or not you’re involved in a writing group, there comes a time when one of your fellow writers will ask you to read his or her manuscript. If this person has already done you the favor of reading one of yours, you are more or less honor bound to return the kindness.
If you and your colleague are at a comparable level in your writing skills, this could turn out to be a very pleasant and profitable exchange of ideas and perspectives. This is the best case scenario, and the reason why I urge anyone seriously considering joining a writer’s group to bear in mind these potential issues.
Sooner or later, the moment will come when you are faced with the terrible prospect of reading a manuscript that is so bad that every page is absolute torture. No amount of cheery and euphemistic commentary can conceal the fact that this particular stack of paper besmirched with little black ink marks is really, really bad. Your eyes ache, your fingers are cramped from making copy editing marks, and you’re left with the unhappy knowledge that reading this mess has taken up hours of your life that you will never get back again.
What can we do to protect our sanity, our writing time, and the integrity of our relationships with colleagues while still sparing ourselves the ordeal of forcing ourselves to endure really bad writing?
Honesty There are some types of fiction that do not appeal to me, so I rarely read them. Regency romance. Westerns. Space opera. Really gruesome horror. Since I don’t read much in these genres, I’m not a very good judge of what works and what doesn’t according to the usual reader expectations. Therefore I can step aside with a clear conscience.
Time Life gets more and more crowded every day. Finding the time to do our own writing and editing can be difficult enough. Making time for additional critiquing may not be possible. If one has a standing commitment to a regular writing group, that’s one thing. That commitment must be honored. Outside of that, however, a judicious application of the word NO might be essential.
Referral If you know somebody in your circle of writing acquaintances who might be willing to take on the burden of this critique, present your appeal with full disclosure. If your colleague agrees, make the connection between the owner of the manuscript and the willing victim, give them your blessing, and exit stage left.
What do you think? Am I being reasonable here? Or am I being to harsh in declaring some manuscripts way too much of a not very good thing?