How to Use Critique Notes to Edit Your Manuscript

When you get your manuscript back for the first time with all those scribbles in the margins, you can’t hold off your excitement – or fear – of finding out exactly what they say. It’s never easy to read a thorough critique of something you worked so hard on, but you know the notes are meant to help you do better. Now that you have your editor’s opinions, what do you do with them? The editing process itself is also quite intimidating. Here are some suggestions on how to use critique notes to edit your manuscript.

Don’t React Right Away

When you first get your editor’s letter and critique notes back, you’re eager to start revisions. Hold off, though, and wait a couple days before starting. Hopefully your editor provided a letter summarizing their critique. Read this, and then ponder it for a bit. Give your understanding of the critique time to develop, and let your ideas come to surface gradually. After you’ve let the comments sink in, get back to work with a clearer focus.
Read Everything First

Don’t just dive in and begin making edits page-by-page. Before you edit anything, read all of the comments and critique notes for the entire manuscript. You should be paying specific attention to anything that addresses content or consistency. Typos and grammatical errors are easily fixed. When it comes to content, you want to get the whole picture. The entirety of the editor’s notes will help you more than they will individually, and sometimes you may find they had a change of heart or developed a new opinion as your writing progressed.
Come Up with a Plan

The major changes, like plot and character development, should be tackled first, but it can be overwhelming to address everything at once. This is when a to-do list can really help you. Write out all the adjustments you want to make, and put them in order from most to least important. Start at the top and work your way down.
Keep Everything

Sometimes your manuscript will change drastically by the time you’re done making edits. Always keep a copy of your original, just in case you want to refer back to it. If you take out or change something, save the original elsewhere. If you decide later that the edit wasn’t necessary or still isn’t to your liking, you’ll be able to readily access what was there first.
Easy Does It

If your editor’s critique notes are particularly harsh, or there are just a lot of them, it’s easy to get carried away and begin making lots of major changes. Don’t do it. Over-editing is a big mistake. Edit too much, and you can get completely off track. Carefully consider your changes before you make them. If you change one thing, you don’t necessarily need to change everything else that’s related to it. Read the critique notes closely. Are they suggesting a one-time edit of a particular sentence or section, or are they suggesting a complete revision throughout the entire manuscript?

Alayne Valentine is an avid writer and English student who is an expert on editing manuscripts. She loves to write and covers anything from proofing advice to the use of grammar checkers.

Photo Credit: El Chupacabrito