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If you've ever stared at your keyboard, lamenting how much your writing sucks, good news! You found us. And we're here to tell you to snap out of it. 

STRONG HINT: Your writing does not suck. You're just not done yet.

So, whether you're a new penmonkey or a seasoned word-slinger looking for new perspective, listen in and find some nuggets to nudge you along until you find your own momentum.  

May 3, 2021

When the time comes and your manuscript needs some hard truths, who you gonna call?

This time around Anne and Tracey talk about helpful beta readers and what to ask of them. Anne discusses the necessity of asking readers to get brutally honest, and Tracey goes over a very…unusual first kiss scene.


QUOTE: “One kind word can change someone’s entire day.” – currently Anonymous


CREDITS: This episode of Your Writing Does Not Suck was recorded by the separate participants and edited by Anne M. Belen



(Courtesy of Anne Belen who stole it from Tracey Shearer and altered it after she stole it from Stacy Claflin and altered it)



1) What kept you coming back to read (if anything?)

2) Other comments:



1) What is the first thing someone would complain about in a review for this current version of the story? Remember, you’re looking out for me!

So, scale of 1-10, how badly did that thing you just wrote down bother you?

2) Other comments:



1) Did this title work for you? If not, any thoughts on a better one?



1) Were the first paragraphs and first page compelling? If not, where did you stop and why?

2) Did you get oriented fairly quickly as to: whose story it is, what’s going on, and where/when it’s taking place? If not, what was confusing?

3) Did the story continue to hold your interest through the first few chapters? Is there a point where your interest started to lag (at any point in the book, really)?

4) Opening -- other comments:



1) Was the overall story interesting to you? What plot/subplot(s) kept pulling you through?

2) Where there any parts that confused, frustrated, or annoyed you?

3) Which scenes/paragraphs/lines did you really like?  

4) Which parts were exciting? Should they be elaborated on?

5) What parts resonated with you and/or moved you emotionally?

6) Were there any scenes that you knew were “big deals,” but you felt “meh”?

7) Which parts bored you and should be compressed or even deleted?

8) What parts or plotlines did you dislike? Is there a plotline you think doesn’t even need to be in the story?

9) Did you understand every phrase/term? If not, which ones needed clarity?

10) Did you notice any discrepancies in behaviors and decisions (not later explained)?

11) Were there any logic issues with the plot?

12) Was the social conflict between characters understandable? Could you see all sides’ opinions clearly?

13) *Was the ending satisfying and believable?

14) Did major plot points feel appropriately timed?

15) Plot/Pacing—other comments:



1) Did the dialogue sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded off and why?

2) Dialogue—other comments:



1) Could you relate to (the main character)? Did you feel her pain, joy, fears, worry, excitement?

2) Could you relate to (the male lead)? And (the secondary characters)?  

3) Was (the antagonist) fully realized and believable? Could she be more interesting and connect more for the reader?  

4) Could the threats to (the main character) be nastier or more interesting?  On the flip side, did anything feel like too much?

5) Were there characters that needed development or focus?

6) Which characters did you connect to and like? (Or like to hate?)

7) Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or likeable?

8) Did you get confused about who’s who?   

9) Did (the two main leads) have chemistry and did their relationship make sense?

10) Did (the MC and antagonist) relationship feel fully realized and make sense?

11) Which side characters are you curious to know more about after reading this installation?

12) Character—other comments:



1) Did you have to reread any part of the romantic scenes or interactions for clarity?

2) Did any of the romantic dialogue or interactions make you cringe?  

3) How well did you think the relationship developed between the couple and did you feel it served the story?

4) Romance—other comments:



1) Could you see every action clearly?

2) Did you have to reread any of the action sequences to understand who was doing what? Did any of it feel “cardboard” or mechanical?

3) Did you get a good idea of what the characters looked like in your mind? If not, what was missing?

4) Visual—other comments:



1) Did this feel like a fully-realized world? Did you think anything was lacking or logically implausible within the rules of the world?

2) What (if anything) stood out as a cool concept or idea?

3) Did anything feel particularly cliché or were there missed opportunities to do something unique?

4) Were there any missed opportunities for world-building in general?

5) Were you able to visualize where and when the story took place?

6) Did the setting pull you in, and did the descriptions seem realistic?

7) Was there logic to the world? If not, what felt off?

8) Did the societal/government details make sense? Were their aspects of it that felt unaddressed in order for the story to work (as opposed to things that can wait for later books)?

9) World Building/Setting—other comments:



1) Did the “feel” of the Point of View character work? Did it feel appropriate to the story type?

2) Did any of the writing feel jarring or awkward in places? If possible, can you cite where? (Saying “the whole thing” is perfectly acceptable.)

3) Did the promise of the story type (established in those opening scenes) feel consistent until the end? Or did the ending feel like it belonged to a different genre or story?

4) Were there certain scenes or paragraphs that felt out of place or like a “different writer” had stepped in?

5) Writing Style/Tone/Voice – other comments:



1) Did you catch any editing blips? Please (if you can) note where and what.

2) Did you notice any continuity issues?

3) Were there inconsistencies with italics or other formatting?



1) Would you be interested in reading the next story in the series?

2) What things would you like to see explored in subsequent books?

3) Other comments: