At one time or another, we’ve all sought feedback on our writing, or been asked to give feedback to someone else. It’s frustrating when someone can’t find anything at all to critique, and equally frustrating when they start nitpicking because they think they aren’t being helpful if they don’t find some flaws.
Below, I’ve assembled a list of questions and talking points that might be helpful when discussing a manuscript. These are aimed at the layperson beta reader, or your mom, or your best friend, or anyone else who might not already have the vocabulary to put their feelings into more helpful words than “I liked it.”
- Are there any parts where it felt like it dragged / you got bored / wanted to put it down?
- Are there any parts where you weren’t sure what was happening?
- Do the characters feel well-rounded and human? Are there any characters you especially like or don’t like? Did any characters seem especially flat, dull, or lacking in distinctiveness, who shouldn’t have been?
- Were there any characters or places with names so similar that you had a hard time telling them apart?
- Does the world feel well-rounded and realistic enough for you to imagine it as you read?
- At any point, does a character do something that feels like it’s impossible, implausible, or against their nature?
- How would you describe what this book is about to someone else, in one sentence? (This is a great one for making sure that the most important elements are coming through with appropriate weight for the reader. If what they think your book is about isn’t what you think your book is about, that’s really good to know.)
- Did the plot climax and resolution take too long / resolve too easily / seem implausible / let you down?
- Was the plot / resolution predictable? Did it surprise you? At what point did you know what was going to happen?
Do you have any others for this list? Please share them in the comments!