The Crime Readers' Association

Helen Phifer: Diary of a Debut Author – Professional Critiques

19th March 2014 by in









Hello, thanks for coming back. I don’t know where the time goes, on second thoughts I do. The past couple of weeks I’ve been working hard to frantically finish the copy edits of my second book which is due for release on April 8th. This has been a great excuse to buy new post it notes, highlighters and a couple of new files to keep everything in. I have this very strange stationary fetish – but I’ll save that for another time.

I wanted to tell you about my experience of professional critiques, after my harsh reality check about the state of my manuscript. I did eventually work my way through it, but let me tell you it wasn’t easy, I had no idea where to start so I started at the beginning. I was terrified and the thought of working through it brought me out in a cold sweat. I would find myself alone in the house and suddenly have an urge to clean every skirting board I could find, the paintwork in my house positively sparkled for the first time in years.

I have a stack of notebooks in the desk drawer so I took a brand new one and wrote the title of my book on it, then I took my assorted highlighters, red pens and trusted post it notes. What did I do next? I left it all on the top of my desk for the next week and looked at it every day, trying to build up the courage to do something with it. Eventually the desire to prove myself overcame my fear and I sat down and looked at the first page. Taking it one page at a time I worked my way through it, making lots of notes and references. When I finally finished the sense of achievement was amazing. For some time I had been thinking about getting a professional critique and decided that before I would show my work to anyone else I would send it away for one.

I searched through my stack of writing magazines; I knew they would come in handy one day. I was looking for what I hoped was a reputable company. I found one that I liked the sound of and did some research about them, I also had to talk to my husband about it. He thought that £520 was a lot of money and yes it was an awful lot of money but I had decided that I was going to start looking at my writing as if it was a business and thought this would be a worthwhile investment. A couple of weeks later I sent off my manuscript and within three weeks I got a five page report back. It was helpful but there were a few glaring mistakes in it, which I thought was very unprofessional but I let it pass. On the whole I was happy with the report but it wasn’t what I had been expecting, I think because my book is cross genre that maybe they didn’t quite know what to do with it.

The Crime Writers Association now has a manuscript assessment service that wasn’t around when I was looking, which is a terrible shame because I would definitely have used it. Especially if you are writing a crime book as it is published crime writers who are doing the critiquing. It helps that they know exactly what they are talking about and the price is much more reasonable than any I had been quoted.

My next step was to rewrite it again, changing all the mistakes that had been pointed out. This time I was happy enough with it that I never gave it anyone to read. I thought that it was the best it possibly could be and began submitting to agents.

Next month: Agents – again.

Helen Phifer - The Ghost House

Read more about Helen Phifer on her CRA profile as well as a link to Ghost House which is currently the fab price of £0.59 on Amazon.

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