No matter where you are in the writing or revision process, at some point, you’re going to need outside critique. Whether you're looking for beta readers, writing workshop groups, or casual commentary from friends and family, here's some unofficial guidance on the five types of feedback partners to best support you in revision.
The Five Types of Feedback Partners
The First Reader:
The First Reader is, simply put, the first person to look at your manuscript. They can be a close friend, family member, or romantic partner, though you can also seek a volunteer or professional out online. What they do also comes in many forms. Your First Reader might read your very first full draft and provide feedback; they can even read excerpts and be a brainstorming partner as you initially start writing! However, it’s important to note that whoever you choose as your First Reader will provide critical feedback on your concept and story elements at the earliest stage of your writing process. You want to pick someone you trust with that responsibility.
The Cheerleader is your personal motivator, giving you the support and encouragement you need as you write and revise. Cheerleaders come in all shapes and sizes, from volunteer loved ones to hired professionals, but you’ll always recognize them by their ability to give both glowing praise and constructive, kindly worded criticism. A good Cheerleader will give you strong feedback on your story or language elements while also encouraging your continual growth and revision, keeping you motivated and accountable through even the worst bouts of burnout or writers block.
The Critic archetype is not necessarily a critic by profession; they merely posses a strong tendency toward bluntness and brutal honesty. They won’t hold anything back, and, in my experience, they won’t compliment you superfluously (if they compliment you at all). What the Critic will do is point out areas of weakness in your writing so that you can better your work. Receiving tough feedback can be, well, tough, so you should only consult this partner when your work is polished and you're mentally prepared to handle heavy critique. Still, brutal honesty can be incredibly useful for identifying and correcting weaknesses in a manuscript… and when you earn the rare praise of a trusted Critic, you’ll know your story is heading in the right direction.
The Fellow Writer:
Getting feedback from your peers, and even other book readers, can be very valuable. But I always recommend that authors seek feedback from Fellow Writers too. You can join a critique group, take a writing class with workshops, or just find a writing buddy to work with one on one. Whatever option you choose, know that Fellow Writers will be able to asses your story and language elements at a deeper level than casual readers. Receiving constructive criticism from someone else who knows your craft, and the struggles that accompany it, will help tighten your manuscript even more.
The Editor is your ultimate feedback partner, bringing extensive experience in either writing, publishing, or both. For example, they typically hold degrees in English, Writing, or Publishing and spend years working with publishing houses or indie authors. When you give your Editor your polished draft, they devote their full focus to strengthening it, providing comprehensive notes and suggestions, answering your questions as they arise, and striving to be the best possible resource to you in your revision process. You will receive a lot of feedback from them, and even with Editors of the Cheerleader mentality, some of this feedback will be challenging. But hiring an Editor you trust will strengthen your manuscript and hone your writing skills to a transformative extent.
Whether you follow this guide verbatim or customize it to fit your own feedback process, I hope that it will encourage you to think about who you're receiving feedback from and when. For example, if you're still on a rough draft, a First Reader or Cheerleader may be a better feedback partner for you than a Critic! Conversely, when you're starting to feel more confident in your work's quality, I'd encourage you to connect with Critics and Fellow Writers who can provide more analytical or technique-focused commentary. Seek out trusted sources of feedback and be open to change, and you'll be surprised how much you can strengthen your manuscript!
Finally, once you're ready for professional feedback, consider investing in an Editor. While you can hire one as soon as you finish your first draft, you'll likely save money on your editing fees by first exhausting your other sources of critique and improving your manuscript on your own as much as you can. But no matter what shape your manuscript is in, a good Editor will help you take your work to the next level, preparing you for publication with detail-oriented editing and thorough advice drawn from years of experience.
Still have questions?
Let me know! I'm always happy to answer comments, or you can reach out to me at my contact page.