So, your story is pretty much done. You like the way it sounds. Your characters seem to feel quite natural in the little world you’ve created for them. You even think all of your word choices are stellar. Great. Now what?
Perhaps it’s time to put it up for review. For me, this is the final step–or often the step just before I revise yet again.
The review is all about letting others read over your story and offer critiques. The step is more stressful than writing the first paragraph and more painful than pulling everything together in the last chapter. However, I feel that it’s just as important. It’s an opportunity to see how others react to your story, to see where you’ve missed shortcomings and plot holes, and to clear your mind. After all, I would rather my friends find that devastating plot hole than a potential publisher one day.
If you’re brave enough to decide to let others review your work, here are a few tips.
1. Choose your reviewers
I start off by thinking of what I want to be sure is working in the story. Then I compile a mental list of the specific things I want examined and who would be best at analyzing those things. Mom knows grammar and word choice and understands medieval societies, so she’s an obvious choice. My husband helped my solidify the world of Carrick and define the plot, and being a less patient reader, he can help me judge the pacing. He’s perfect. His mom can spot plot holes and continuity problems. She’s excellent. And so on I go through the list. Before long, I have a short list of potential readers.
2. Understand copyright laws
Copyright laws basically begin protecting your story the moment you capture the ideas on paper–physically or digitally. However, if you have invested a great deal of time and effort into the work–like a novel–you may want to consider giving it a more difficult-to-dispute timestamp, like sending it to yourself via certified mail. The post office will completely seal the envelope and put timestamps and signatures all over it. As long as you don’t break the seal, it’s an easy way to prove that the story was in your possession on that exact date. For me, the couple of dollars for the process and borrowing some space in my parents’ safe is well worth it to ensure fifteen years of my work are protected.
3. Print it
Well, first choose the number of copies you want. For a list of twelve people, I usually have three or four copies for circulation. It usually takes people a few weeks to read the novel and provide feedback, so if you want the process to go more quickly, print more. If not, print a minimal number. You also want to consider where to print them. It may be cheaper to print it at home or it might be better to pay for Kinko’s or another facility to take care of it for you.
4. Hand it out
This is the most painful part. I can never help but feel sick as I hand it off to the first set of reviewers–usually my husband, Mom, and my mom-in-law.
Consider working on another short project, spending time with some excellent fiction, or study up on improving your technique. Anything to keep your mind off of the feedback you’ll be receiving sooner or later.
6. Keep a list of your reviewers
If you get published, these people deserve some credit.
7. Weed through the feedback
Weeding is probably the most appropriate way to describe this. While all feedback can be helpful, some things may be more helpful than others. Consider the suggested changes, problem areas, and plot holes your reviewers have pointed out. Then reread the story and judge which suggestions are used and which are not.
8. Decide where to go next
Is the story done? Consider beginning the process of getting it published. And don’t look at me for that one yet. I’m just starting the review. I’ll write about that in a few months, when all my reviewers are finished.
Not ready yet? Send it back for revision. The story can only get better. I can attest to that. (Or at least, I sure hope my old reviewers agree that it’s better six years later!)
Either way, it’s quite an accomplishment to think that you’re near the end of your work and an even greater one to let anyone read it.