How do you know if your book is any good?

(15 Posts)
kungfupannda Sun 17-Mar-13 13:39:50

Writewords now has a full manuscript swapping group. It might be worth a look. I know a couple of the people in it and they are extremely good at feedback.

GW297 Sat 02-Mar-13 22:09:34

Those questions will be fantastically helpful for me - thank you for sharing!

GrendelsMum Sat 02-Mar-13 19:39:05

Tunip very kindly critiqued my novel for me - I'm the person mentioned above, who gave her a paragraph of clear questions to look out for. She answered them and also gave more general feedback on issues that she'd noticed.

This was based on prior experience of giving a friend an earlier draft and just saying something useless like 'is it any good?' I also found that my husband was only willing to confirm that there were problems if he thought I was already aware of them (really not very helpful, if perhaps very loving).

Here's the set of questions that I sent to Tunip with the novel, to give you a better idea. They were all based on my own concerns and issues I'd tried to overcome.

- Is it interesting throughout? Are there sections where interest flags?
- Does people's motivation seem credible?
- Are there things people do that seem unjustified?
- Did you follow what was going on?
- Did you feel that the questions set up by the novel were resolved by the end, or were you left hanging?
- Did anything just feel too far-fetched
- Did you actually enjoy it?

It's worth saying I also went to creative writing classes at which we took turns to read and critique short passages of each others' novels, and which was a massive help.

LoopDeLoops Mon 18-Feb-13 14:00:28

Hope so! smile

TunipTheVegedude Mon 18-Feb-13 09:43:10

Don't do yourself down, Loops.
Editors and teachers would know how to say it wasn't good in a nice way if it was awful. The likeliest explanation is that it is better than you think!

LoopDeLoops Sun 17-Feb-13 23:05:13

Good pointers, thank you all.

Friends that I've had look at it include an editor/publisher (in paid capacity, but still friend), a writer, a translator and three English teachers. I'm hoping that at least a couple of those were being a little bit truthful in saying they enjoyed it!

I'm finding this the hardest bit - believing them!

GW297 Sun 17-Feb-13 21:49:04

Agree - otherwise you'll get, 'it was quite good' etc.

TunipTheVegedude Sun 17-Feb-13 18:47:34

That's another thing - tell them the sort of thing you are looking for.
I read a book for a MNer and she sent it with a paragraph of stuff about what to look for (eg 'are the motivations clear? are there any plot holes?') rather than 'Is it any good?'

TunipTheVegedude Sun 17-Feb-13 18:34:41

I don't mean to imply that you have to write or be an editor to comment usefully, btw, but I do think reading in the genre is important.

TunipTheVegedude Sun 17-Feb-13 18:22:02

I get the impression Authonomy is full of people being nice about other people's books so you will rate theirs highly too; I'm not sure the way it's set up encourages honest feedback.

If somebody is really good at giving feedback they can be quite hard-hitting without damaging friendship - my friend who read a draft of my last-but-one emphasised the 'pure gold' of the situation and the characters while giving enough useful suggestions for improvement to make me aware that the quality of the writing needed a lot of work and I shouldn't be submitting it in that state. I am over the moon that she has agreed to read my next for me. She is a writer herself so she knows that I do actually want suggestions for improvement.
Who are the people who have read it? Do they write themselves? Thing is, it's not all about honesty, it's also about them having the skills to comment objectively and usefully. Another dear friend enthused wildly about the book I just mentioned. He was sincere - no doubt about that - but he was also wrong - and how would he know if it was good.... he doesn't read in the genre I was writing, he doesn't write fiction himself, he doesn't have editing or publishing experience.
So it's not only about whether they are friends, IMO, it's about whether they can give you useful advice. I would seek out people who write or people who read in the genre you are writing in or who you know to be perceptive about writing.
(I also have a bunch of friends lined up to read my current one. I'm not going to ask them 'is it any good?' I will be asking them what are the stronger and weaker points and how it could be improved.)

donnasummer Sun 17-Feb-13 16:14:12

at the end of the day, however, it's your call to make the editorial decisions
drowning in rejection letters and you know it needs an overhaul

donnasummer Sun 17-Feb-13 16:12:30

friends of friends is a good suggestion, or pay for a professional feedback
or join a writer's group, either irl or online eg authonomy
you can be sure friends won't tell you what you need to know

GW297 Sun 17-Feb-13 16:08:15

Maybe try to get friends of friends to read it? My friend's mum, who doesn't really know me, read some of mine and another friend gave it to a lady at her book group to read.

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Sun 17-Feb-13 14:21:32

Never listen to friends unless they are of the 'blunt and honest' variety. Read, put it away, read, put it away, read again. Does it flow? Do the characters develop? Anything that you don't get?

Mine make me want to bounce on the sofa and read them again and again. This is when I know it's a good 'un. It all depends on whether the agents and publishers agree though (jury's still out).

Good luck!

LoopDeLoops Sun 17-Feb-13 14:18:56

Do you believe friends who tell you it is? I just can't tell who is being polite and who actually means it. Any thoughts as to how to get a genuinely unbiased opinion?

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