So, you’ve finished writing your manuscript and you’re ready to get some feedback. Congratulations! 🥳 *throws confetti* Or maybe you’re not quite finished and are procrastinating. In which case SHAME!
Haha just kidding. Don’t leave. Stay. You’re investing in future you. Good for you, m’dude 😃
When it comes time to get feedback on your manuscript, it is helpful for both you and your reader if you narrow your focus. That way they know what you’re looking for and you don’t get inundated with unnecessary critique.
Matti and I went a more or less unconventional route and sent out our chapters one by one as we finished them. We never anticipated anyone actually wanting to read our first draft, but well, that wasn’t the case. 🙃 Today I have compiled a list of questions separated by character, dialogue, plot, and prose. I also added a section dedicated to chapter-by-chapter questions if you choose to go that route and a couple of handy “questions to avoid.”
Character Related Questions
- What do you like about the main character? What don’t you like?
- What observations did you make about the MC’s personality?
- Do you feel like the MC’s goals and motivations are clear/strong enough, and were they stated early enough in the story?
- Did you get confused about who’s who in the characters? Were there too many characters to keep track of?
- Were the characters believable? Notice I didn’t say likable. Your characters do not need to be likable. You do not need sympathetic readers, you need empathetic readers. It’s great to have lovable characters, but you need to ask yourself if they are realistic.
- Do you feel each character clearly has their own motivations and contributes something worthwhile to the plot? In other words, is there anyone you feel is redundant or could be omitted?
- Are there any characters that seem cliché, underdeveloped, or stereotypical? How do you think they can be improved?
- Were the character relationship believable?
- Did the romantic relationship build naturally or did it feel forced?
- Are there any character names that were too difficult to read or sounded too similar to others?
- Were there any parts where the characters seemed to be acting out of character?
- Who was your favorite character?
- Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting?
- If you could choose, which character would be getting more “screen time” and why?
- Which character do you care for the least?
- What are your thoughts/feelings on the MC’s character arc?
- Do you feel like the antagonists and/or villain is just as fleshed out and relatable as the MC?
Dialogue Related Questions
- Were there any parts you had to reread to figure out who was speaking?
- Do any two (or three) characters sound too much alike? Variation: Does each character have their own distinct voice?
- Were there any lines or exchanges that made you laugh? Also a fun one to do chapter-by-chapter.
- Could you easily “see what characters were doing while they were talking?
- Were there any lines that seemed unnatural or didn’t fit the genre/culture/time period?
Plot Related Questions
- At what point did you think “okay, this is where the story begins”?
- Was there a point at which you felt the story/chapter lagged or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly?
- Did you pick up on any plot holes?
- Were there any scenes or exchanges between characters which you felt did not further the plot?
- Was there enough tension and intrigue to keep you engaged? This question is best for chapter-by-chapter readers, but can work as a broad question halfway through or when they’ve finished reading.
- Did any explanations or revelations seem too contrived or contradictory?
- Which parts/scenes did you like the least? Why?
- Did you notice any inconsistencies in the timeline, characters, description, or other details? Any redundancies?
- At what point do you feel like the reader could use a break?
- Do you feel the story started and ended in the right places?
Prose Related Questions
- When was the first time you put the book down? This can tell you where your pacing begins to slow. Ideally you want them to say they didn’t ever want to put it down.
- Were there any parts you remember having to reread because they were confusing? Where?
- Were there any parts where you felt like skimming? Where?
- Did anything make you laugh?
- Did anything make you sad?
- Did anything make you cringe?
- What were some of your favorite lines?
- Why did you finish? // At what point did you decide this book wasn’t for you and why?
- Was anything written that made you stop and reflect for a moment?
- Did the setting interest you, and did the descriptions seem vivid and real?
- Were there any scenes where the description of the setting seemed to be lacking?
- Were there any parts where you felt there was too much exposition or not enough?
- Does the writing style remind you of another book or author? This is something I wish I would have asked in the beginning when our story was still fresh in our reader’s minds. SO many agents ask for book comparisons and I cannot think of anything other than “Skyrim,” which isn’t even a book 😂🤦♀
- Was there anything you found to be ethically problematic? I stole this from Reni Stankova and I feel like in today’s social climate, it is very critical for an aspiring author to be considerate of how their story affects their readers. It would be best to realize you made an unintentional mistake before cancel culture ascends, but most importantly, we should be mindful and respectful of other people’s feelings.
Chapter by chapter questions
Consider the purpose of each chapter and ask questions accordingly.
- On a scale from 1-5, how much did you enjoy this chapter?
- On a scale from 1-5, how eager are you to read the next chapter?
- Are there any questions/comments/concerns you have for me?
- What predictions to do have? I feel like this is one of the BEST questions to ask chapter by chapter readers. Not only is it fun to read their responses, but you can also determine if you’re being too obvious or not obvious enough.
I like this BookTuber’s approach to chapter by chapter questionnaires:
Questions to avoid
Yes or no questions. Human beings have a tendency to speak as little as possible. Sometimes even the most enthusiastic readers need a little coaxing and nudging.
So what did you think? Like I said above, they’ll end up giving you no more than 3 syllables: “it was good,” or “I liked it.” Also, they may have trouble recollecting specifics so nudge them in the right direction.
So that’s it for now. Obviously you do not need to ask each reader EVERY SINGLE QUESTION on this list, so pick the ones you feel will bring you the most value. Is there anything we missed? Are there any you are excited to use? Let us know in the comments below!