Honest criticism of another writer’s work can ruin a friendship or break up a family, but writers learn most from readers, particularly readers who are writers.
I risked cutting the family ties by reading a teenager’s novel and giving her the same kind of feedback I would an experienced writer. That’s tough love. Fortunately she proved dedicated enough to accept criticism of technique as well as praise for creativity.
I gave her the following tips on preparing to rewrite.
Look at each page. Does it have paragraphs of different lengths? If all your paragraphs are short, you probably have too much dialogue and not enough action. If all your paragraphs are long, you probably have too much description.
Does every page look like the one before and after it? Then you haven’t varied the pace. Your writing may be monotonous.
Look at the beginning of each paragraph. Do you start several with the same word? Watch particularly for paragraphs beginning with “The” or the name of a character.
Does every sentence have the same structure? Most should follow the strongest pattern in the language: subject-verb-object.
List your characters. Does each name start with a different letter? If you start names with the same letter, people have trouble telling the characters apart. Do the names have a different number of syllables? If several characters have a one-syllable name (Joe, Bob, Dick), readers may not remember which is which.
Have you described each character the same way all the way through? Be sure no one is short in one chapter and tall in another. Be consistent in describing a character’s personality, too. Either before or during the first draft, write a brief biography of each character. Include not only what they look like but what they want.
Rewriting begins with an analysis of what you’ve written.