“I hate your manuscript” – Critiquing a manuscript that you don’t like

by Amber Keyser
Published on: June 11, 2012
Comments: 1 Comment

Eventually it will happen.  Whether you are in a new critique group or a neighbor has asked you to read his pages or you’re on the faculty for a writing conference, you will need to critique manuscripts that you really don’t like.

That’s okay.


As Beth Revis discusses in a wonderful post on how to deal with negative reviews (the other side of the coin we’re discussing), tastes differ.  Some people hate Harry Potter.  Some people think Where the Wild Things Are sucks.  You can and should acknowledge the genres or forms that you are just not into.

That does not, however, get you off the hook of providing critique.

You can’t say, “I don’t like it.”
You can’t say, “It’s not my thing.”
You can’t say, “This is terrible.”

You can say, “I am not familiar with the conventions of this genre.”
You can say, “I heard that Silly Willy Press publishes goofy rhyming picture books.”
You can say, “I was wondering who the target audience is.”

It’s even better if you can…

… try to get past the fact that you hate rhyming picture books and provide useful comments on structure or story arc or character development

… figure out what you don’t like and frame this constructively.  For example, you hate the main character, but instead you focus on what would help you connect with him.  Is he too passive?  Does he feel mean-spirited?  Can he do less self-talk and more action?

… remember that you are not trying to help your critique partner write a story you will like.  You are trying to help her write the story she is trying to write.

And above all… Do No Harm.  Many of us have experienced manuscripts that looked like lost causes and low and behold, the writer has revised and revised until her story has emerged solid and polished and, yes, likeable!

Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.

1 Comment - Leave a comment
  1. “Do No Harm” is definitely the key. Thanks for the post, Amber!

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