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  • Matthew Bayan



A great way to get and give feedback is to form what I call a Jump Start Group. This is a finished novel group in which each member reads the other members' manuscripts and gives feedback. The ideal number of members is four or five. Usually the time allotted to read each manuscript is one month. Then the group meets to provide feedback on the one manuscript the members just finished.

To help you analyze someone else's manuscript, here's a list of questions to consider as you're reading:

Would you recommend this book to friends? Why? How would you persuade them?

Is this book ready to be on the shelves of Barnes & Noble? If not, how close is it (use a percentage)?


How well did you identify with the main character? What did you like and dislike about the character? How well formed is the character? Believable?

What makes the main character not ordinary, outside the bell curve? Imagine spending a weekend with the main character. What would you envision happening? What would you do; where would you go; would it be fun or not?

Imagine spending a weekend with the antagonist. How would that go?

How did you respond to support characters? Who did you like and who did you dislike? Were these positive or negative responses appropriate for the roles the characters play in the story?

How did you respond to the interactions between characters? Were the characters and interactions believable? What stands out that you think should be changed?


What is your overall reaction to the plot? Was the ending satisfying? Why? Were there any plot holes or inconsistencies?

How was the pacing? Too slow, too fast, just right? Were there any slow spots you think should either be trimmed or eliminated? Were there any spots that went too quickly?

What is the weakest chapter? What is the strongest chapter?

How satisfying is the story arc? How easily could you follow the story? Are there any places where you got lost? Are there any sections you would cut out or expand?

What genre would you say this book is? Where in a bookstore do you envision it?

How well were suspense and tension handled?

Did the writer properly balance showing vs. telling?

Did the writer use 90% action verbs and less than 10% passive verbs?

Did the writer effectively use point-of-view? Or did the writer head-hop?

Did you notice flashbacks? Were they smoothly integrated or were they jarring? Did they help the story and character development or hurt them? Were they integral to the story development or just data dumps?


What reading level would you say this book is? Was the vocabulary understandable at all times? Are there areas that need toning down?

What is your reaction to the voice of the narrator? Is it satisfying or not? Does it draw you into the story? In what ways? What stands out in your mind when you think of the narrator's voice? What would you change?

How well is first person handled? Could you see this book in third person or vice-versa?

What did you think of the dialogue? Was there enough or too much? How recognizable were characters by the way they spoke? Was the dialogue interesting? Can you follow which character is speaking? Does the dialogue always contain an element of conflict? Identify areas of ho-hum dialogue.

Think about sentence and paragraph structure. Was it varied or repetitious? Economical or flabby?

How well were descriptions handled? Did you get enough or did you want more? Did the writer use similes and metaphors effectively? How particular were images and characters versus being over-described? Did the author avoid long description in favor of condensed images?

Is the tone effective? Is it consistent throughout the ms?


Did the time and place feel authentic? How well could you see and hear the environment? Are there any areas that were confusing or difficult to approach?

Did the time sequence of the events feel logical? Did they flow properly? Are there any places where you felt jolted or lost?


Overall, what grade would you give this book? A to E.

If you had bought this book, would you feel it was money well spent or want a refund? Would you pass the book on to a friend or keep it?

Is there some burning issue the book draws to the surface that you want to talk about? What is that?

Any other thoughts or comments?

Just released. THE TAKER will make it difficult to sleep with the lights out.

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