Do you really want to read this?
|Then he did what to the gerbil?|
If a writer approaches you and asks you to read a manuscript, think carefully before answering.
What genre is the work? If it's something you're not into, you aren't going to do anyone any favors by forcing yourself through it. My husband doesn't read romance. I know this, and I don't try to make him read my novels. Also, don't be afraid to ask about the adult content level of a piece. Some people don't want to read explicit sex or violence. There's nothing wrong with inquiring, and declining if there are scenes that may make you uncomfortable. Once a project passes your initial sniff test, continue on to consider...
Do you have time to read this?
You know how when you pick up a book at the library, you are frequently presented with something that spans several hundred pages? An unpublished novel is a lot like that, only it isn't neatly bound. If you agree to read an unpublished novel, prepare to have hundreds of pages of loose paper dumped into your lap. The thoughtful writer might give you a bulky three-ring binder. Alternatively, your new reading material might show up in your inbox, leaving you to either print the thing off yourself, or read it on an electronic device.
However it's presented, the unpublished novel is, in fact, a novel. Can you read it in a timely fashion? If not, don't say you'll read it. Please. An unpublished writer can usually count her readers on one hand--two, if she's lucky. We know who you are, and we know you haven't read it. It's a tiny little punch to the soul to wait for feedback that isn't coming. Don't do that to the writer in your life.
So, do you have both the time and inclination to read that unpublished novel? Great! In our next lesson, we'll cover the nitty gritty of critiquing: story arcs, character development, and how to nicely tell a writer her novel sucks.
In the meantime, have you ever been asked to read an unpublished novel? Tell us about it in the comments!