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July 17, 2010


Enna Isilee

Ooh! This is so interesting (and helpful!). It sounds almost exactly like how they're teaching us to correct students in my education classes.


Thanks. My husband wrote a book once, and I wish I had read this first.


I'll keep this information in mind if I do get married. It is good to have a spouse to rely on ones thoughts of their work and the makeshift of the project. Thanks! :)


6. Don't be offended if your friend/spouse doesn't take your suggestions or fix the problem areas the way you had hoped. You might have been wrong.:-)

7. After your critique, gush some more. Lots more.

8. If after the critique your writer friend/spouse gives you the silent treatment, the next time they ask you to critique their manuscript tell them, "I would LOVE to. I'll pencil you in for sometime early next year."


Heh. I think it's true if you ask a friend to read something- let alone your husband. Good advice, Shannon :)


I am so making my husband read this - it's perfect!


With some other advise I found that reading books you love will help you become a writer of your own works. And I find that to be true. I love Shakespear's works. Perhaps you could write a book based on one of his plays, Shannon??? I would love to read it. Plus, I love to read the books you have. :)


I love this. I've over criticized and hurt people's feelings, and had people hurt my feelings. Criticism is a ton easier to take if there is more praise thrown in.

Princess Loucida

I already gave my sister this link!! After waiting a month and a half for her to finish reading the M I gave her. I HOPE this will help, :).


This is great! I'm going to have to send the link to my husband, since he's going to be reading my current revision-in-progress in mid-August. :D

Heather Muir

Orson Scott Card talks about training your Wise Reader by having them ask the three questions that readers will always ask:

"Oh yeah?" Is it believeable?

"So what?" Why should I care?

"Huh?" What is going on?

Sometimes he calls them "Faith, Hope and Clarity." I find it very useful to find problems in the story without criticizing the writers voice (which is something I think you should never do)


This is awesome! I should probably try to follow some of these rules... whenever I'm critiquing someone's work, I usually tend to point out all the mistakes first before going to what was good. :-/

Anthony L. Isom

Great truth and advice in this blog post! I had a horrifying experience with a friend of mine who is what I call a "fringe" writer, wanting to have written a book instead of wanting to do the work that it takes to write a book. Nonetheless, we traded WIP's often, and I found his criticism stopped me from writing.

After analyzing this, I realized it was because he hardly ever said positive, affirming words, so I felt like crap by the end of EVERY session. He no longer reads my novels AS I'm writing them.

Anna Elliott

My husband and I have been married for 10 years, too! And this is a really, really great list. It goes both ways, too--you can train yourself to recognize what kind of feedback you can reasonably expect of your spouse based on their own personality/strengths. My own personal husband would much prefer to read a computer manual to a novel (except maybe mine). But that is OKAY, it gives him a unique sort of insight into my books because he's coming to them without the context of being familiar with other books in the genre. And he actually wrote me a computer program that identifies words/phrases I repeat too often in a story. Really, really awesome.

Shannon Morris

Consider yourself lucky. I'm working on my 4th manuscript and my dear, sweet spouse of a man hasn't read a word, not a single one. What do you think that means? He's not really the reading sort, but still....I'm his wife!

Kristin Levine

Oh my goodness, this is the most helpful post ever! I'm sending it to my husband right now. Thanks so much!


Heather Muir: In the early stages of my first story, someone pointed out that all my narrators (I was alternating between three first-person perspectives) sounded a lot alike. I think that was a way of "criticizing the writer's voice."

I've always figured that I give someone license to tell me, absolutely honestly, what he / she thinks of my writing when I hand over a manuscript. I'd rather hear all of the good, the bad, and the ugly than worry that he's only telling me what he likes to save my feelings. If I think someone is pussyfooting or beating around the bush, I worry that he secretly hates it, and is just worried about telling me so.

I also like both positive and negative feedback throughout the read-through. If my reader waits for later, he might forget what he wanted to say. I also like knowing what's going through his head at that moment - if he thinks the character is unrealistic, or the magic system makes no sense. I'd rather know about that right away - either I wanted that effect, and it's working the way I hoped, or I'm accidentally confusing the reader. If it confuses my friend, it will confuse later readers....

Je Reve

I'm an aspiring professional writer, so reading this validated much of my advice to my sister, for whom I often proof- read school work. Except I'm a grammar nazi. I am so looking forward to any new productions you will have soon. Ina garten's pasta pesto and peas is to die for (bean salad can be tiresome after a trimester, or so I am told.


Ha! This is excellent, excellent advice--even when it comes to husbands reading blogs.


great advice and love the 3 rule..and should apply to those with blogs too..

oh I want to read midnight in austenland..you tease


Hahahah! I read this aloud to The Boy, who snickered appropriately in all the right places... and hopefully learned something.


Ha, ha! I'll have to print this out for my husband. I have a manuscript that he wants to read and I want him to read for me, so these will be great guidelines for us.


Lady Elizabeth

Thanks so much, Ms. Hale, for posting this!! I realize now that I may have over criticized other people's work, or even under criticized. I will email it as a link to a bunch of friends, too. That way they know how to critique my work! :)

"Lady Elizabeth"

Lady Elizabeth

Oh, and I do agree with Carmen in that if I do not get any negative feed back (e.g. "It was good") I feel like they probably hated it and that it was not worth my time and effort and...you probably understand! Sometimes I don't want to know what I did right. I can see that for myself. :)


Very helpful! Thanks!


That was so perfect! The goat example made me laugh out loud :-)

Connie Onnie

I actually just re-listened to Austenland part of Friday & Saturday morning so. Let me just that if I had Midnight in Austenland I would have started as soon as I got it. Tell your hubby to get on the ball!

Laura Z M

Thank you for these helpful guidelines, Shannon. I hope I get the chance to put them to use soon.

Very soon.


Ha ha! Fun post, Shannon-o!
Not quite sure why I just wrote "Shannon-o" other than my kids always request a singing of "Oh, Shenandoah" at bedtime.

So as I'm an utter wannabe writer, and have only written about five chapters-worth of material (that's not five consecutive chapters, but five chapters-worth of considered, then scratched, then reworked, then scratched again material...), I don't have much experience yet in the department of letting my spouse read my work.

Because...I let him read the very first few pages I wrote when I started writing my story two years ago, and felt so nervous, awkward, and self-conscious, that it was if I had handed over my quivering heart on a platter and said, "Here you go, dissect it, slice it up nicely, and give it back to me carefully!"

So, I've let friends, husbands of friends, sisters-in-law, my mom, my mother-in-law, and even my kids read my writing...but not my husband. Since that first experience so long ago. How silly.

But not really, I guess. I want my work to be worth reading for my husband. If there's one person in this world I want to impress, it's my hottie! I want him to find merit in my thoughts and feelings, and not feel inwardly embarrassed for, or ashamed of, the woman he's married.

So, until I can stop rewriting my first chapter (after a bajillion times), my manuscript will stay off of our nightstand. But I'm getting closer to just leaving it casually unpassworded on our desktop. Maybe in just a few months' time.

How are those beebs? Doing synchronized swimming?

Allie Lofland

It is nice to critique your work with a spouse or friend. Good advice, Shannon!

"Allie L."


This is helpful! I'm a pre-reader for my best friend, and it is nice to have some pointers!


Loved this, Shannon! I printed it and handed it over to my husband, along with one of my finished books he's been "meaning" to read but hasn't gotten around to "yet." ;)


Great advice, Shannon! I usually dread reading my friends' writing cause I feel like I should say, "I love it!" when I didn't. Hopefully I can use this in the future:)


I just copied and pasted this into a Word document for future reference - as an aspiring author, I get asked now and then to read others' stories. This will be very helpful for that! :) Thanks!


Shannon, you make me laugh. :) And it's amazing! I'm SO sending this out to my writing group. :)
P.S. I LOVE the Books of Bayern, and I'm planning on reading Austenland soon. Your writing makes me feel happy.

Swiss Miss

I've read all of your books except Forest Born, and enjoyed them immensely. I've just written a novel of 400 pages and am getting it proof read as I type... Clear and honest feedback is always valuable, as is praise. Thanks for your blog it inspired me when I first started writing.
As a Mormon, The Actor and the Housewife was close to the bone, but very enjoyable. Austenland and The Book of a Thousand Days are my favourites so far. Good luck with your babies.


My sister writes, but she doesn't ever offer her work to her family for feedback.


As a young writer, I generally let my parents read my writing before anyone else. In the past, I've gotten defensive after letting them read things I've written because they tend to act more like editors than parents. Once it's more complete, I plan on letting them read my current manuscript-in-progress. Not until they read this post though! Thanks, Shannon! I loved this :) You're examples made me laugh.


I do not know you, but I got your page through the wonderful Mallary Madsen. You've said all of this just right. Nice work.


Did you make these rules up because your husband did some bad reading?


Did you make up these rules? Is it okay to not offer work to a person in your family?


Just as a counterpoint;

"I will not read your f**king script"

Just asking.

Just got this thing sent to me by my wife/aspiring authoress.

As it stands I am already the "patron" of this book. The investor if you will. Paid by thousands of hours of mindnumbing overtime NOT pursuing MY dreams so she can pursue hers.

In addition I have dealt with the neurotic writers ego/behaviour/tears through this, and innumerable other, albeit smaller, projects.

So now I, again, stand on the precipice of post-project-punishment.

Are you wordsmiths so tied into your verb-conjunction-tenses-storyarch-pointofview juggling that you have forgotten the meaning of the very words you use?

So far out in the sea of self indulgence that you actually believe that investing two weeks worth of spare time reading to be allowed to kiss your derrière is assumptively yours to require?

And to twist the dagger of delusions you impose on others, you send your long suffering friends and spouses here;
To spend more time.
To LEARN the trade of said derrière-kissing?

Friendship? Or just more selfabsorbed than a 17 year old blonde cocktease in a navalbase enlisted men's bar.

Just saying.

Wow, dude, you're right, you don't need to read this post. You need marriage counseling. Please, please get it.


Does your husband ever never listen to these rules? Or did he never read them?

new balance

You have to believe in yourself . That's the secret of success .


This is still one of my all time favorite blog posts on the whole internet, and I point people here whenever they are having trouble with a spouse not being supportive AND when they want to know how to ask for good feedback.

Just sayin. :)


Both my mom and dad have now had copies of my manuscript for about two months, and neither of them have finished chapter 1. I know they're busy, but like you said, it's rather discouraging as it makes me feel that either they don't care or they're completely bored by my story. I am sorely tempted to print a copy of this post and highlight tip #1, and then leave it conveniently lying around for them to find. :)

Writer's Mom

Okay so my daughter just sent me this post...which is interesting timing since I just read the initial draft of her book yesterday. Guess I didn't give the responses she was looking for? Thanks for the info!

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