During this damp spring spent in fiction and nonfiction reviews and editing tasks, I repeatedly provided writers and reviewers with guidelines for how to review a manuscript. The tasks of a beta review for fiction or a peer reviewer for technical communications are different from an editor’s work.
Lions and Tigers etc. offers tips for 3 basic kinds of peer reviews in technical communications:
- Peer review as quality check
- Skill building through peer critique
- Mandated reviews as editorial replacement
As you might imagine, I’m not so hot for #3 as any kind of solution for corporate technical communications. I’m not a grammar geek, so I’m not wringing my hands about damage to language and mechanics. Sending a tech writer out to publish in the world without professional editing is foolish. These pathetic attempts to “save resources” likely result from an inability to measure cost/benefit and outcomes when applying short-term Six Sigma methods. Practitioners won’t be able to measure FAIL until a few years down the line.
When I’ve been placed in that situation—publishing crucial technical content without an editor—it felt like a high-wire circus performance without a net.
Then there’s the month’s work with beta reviews of fiction. First, I’m indebted to my readers. The next title in the Rain City Comedy of Manners is nearly ready to go, thanks to great input from my reviewers.
When I’m asking people to help review a draft manuscript, I try to be specific, but I typically have 3 questions:
- What don’t you understand?
- What offends or grosses you out?
- What doesn’t seem true?
A friend who has edited hundreds of fiction and nonfiction books shared a better list of questions. With her permission, I’ve included Tips for Beta Reviewers here.
To help with a project I’m working on this month, I created a list of concerns for writers and editors to discuss with each other when launching a new collaboration.
See the downloadable Checklist for Writer/Editor Collaborations [pdf] — which I published while flying without a net.
Bonus Tip: Why “raining green ink”? Some people freak at simply seeing red ink on their manuscript. If you’re invited to review someone’s manuscript, don’t mess with the possibility of inflicting secret trauma! Use green ink, blue ink, purple ink — skip the red ink.
Please leave a comment with questions:
- If you want more of this kind of information.
- If any of these resources aren’t clear.
The art here is a woodblock print by Northwest printmaker Richard Bennett. I have no idea where I found it.
His prints and book illustrations are exciting. See more in David F. Martin’s book The Art of Richard Bennett.