Having critique partners is an invaluable part of the novel writing process. To get the most mileage out of a critique, you should fix the more obvious problems yourself before passing the manuscript to other readers. Here are some questions to consider.
- Is the age of your main character appropriate for your genre? Does the voice match the age?
- Is the length of your story typical? There are always exceptions to the rule but it’s good to know where your story falls on the spectrum. Jennifer Laughran has an excellent blog post about children’s book category lengths and example titles.
- Are you starting the story at the best point? Is it interesting and compelling to make readers want to continue?
- Is your main character solving problems too easily? Are the stakes high enough?
- Do you know enough about your characters and their motivation? Is backstory handled appropriately? (For example, you don’t want to dump a large amount of backstory in chapter one.)
- Have you eliminated filler words such as really, just, very, well? (You can use this list of words to avoid here.)
- Do you overuse any body part references? (Try searching for stomach, hands, heart.)
- Have you written in the active voice? Example: It was a rainy afternoon (passive) versus The rain pounded the roof (active). Find clues you are using passive voice by searching for to be, are, is, was, has, had, etc.
For more extensive editing advice, I have some recommended books. Share your own favorite books in the comments.