Revisions are a necessary part of writing. No matter how much you have outlined before actually writing your first draft, I am sure you will find that some aspects of your story aren’t making sense or that your transitions aren’t as smooth as they need to be, when you start editing.
After you have polished your draft, you will need to get a second opinion. I would suggest asking someone, who has the time and the will to invest into reading a whole novel and someone, who you think might be the target audience for your genre.
If you have friends or fellow writer colleagues that have different strengths, try giving the manuscript to at least one person, who can focus on the overall picture and one that is best at the nitty gritty stuff (hello grammar).
Overall, the feedback that you want to receive can be split into three categories: content, perception and craft.
When it comes to content you want to ask your critique partners the following questions.
- Did you need to know more about something (a plot line, backstory, a character…)?
- Did the story overall make sense? Would you be able to summarize its gist to someone in a few minutes?
- Was the story overall enjoyable? If not, what was the problem (slow hook, dragging middle part, unsatisfactory ending)?
Next up is perception. Below are a few helpful questions to ask.
- Who do you think is the target audience? Do you think the target audience would enjoy this story?
- Do you think the story makes a point/has a theme?
- How did you feel, after you finished reading the novel?
- Would you recommend it to anyone else? Why/why not?
- Was the story/its characters/the dialogue believable?
Finally, you need to talk about craft. That doesn’t necessarily mean grammar, even though if you’re lucky a friend/reading critique partner might agree to do a spell-check for you.
- Did you like the language used in the novel? Was it clear/reader friendly?
- Did the beginning grab your attention?
- Was the tension increasing throughout the middle until the climax?
- Did the ending answer all the questions you had?
- Was anything confusing? Were there incongruities throughout the story?
- Do you think the balance between narration/description and dialogue was good?
Of course, there are many more questions that you could ask your readers. This is just a starting point. I would also suggest that you put your manuscript away for a while and then when you review it again, answer those questions yourself.
Most importantly ask yourself whether you told an interesting and worthwhile story.