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Mar 4, 2019

How Feedback from Critique Partners Sharpened My Work

By Max Vonne.

I worked on my first novel for Star Faer for about six months before I finished my first draft.  I realized then that I had a huge problem.  I planned to self-publish through Amazon, but how would I know if my book was well-written?  What if there were a billion typos that I couldn’t catch?  What if there were structural issues?  What if no one liked my characters?

It’s probably better to know this before publishing.  So I started looking around for beta readers and came across, shortly after it launched.  It’s a free platform that lets you connect with other writers, so you can critique and edit each other’s work.  

I joined the site without a lot of expectations.  It was early, and I was one of the first writers on the platform.  I queried a few of the other sci fi writers that were active and found some that were willing to look at my work in exchange for me looking at their work.  The result for me ended up being life-changing.  Sounds dramatic.  It is.

I found that I had all kinds of problems with my work.  I started the book with a prologue.  Writers love prologues.  Readers and publishers hate prologues.  I didn’t know that until I researched it.

I wanted to start my book with a romance story.  But no one liked that.  Action is more effective. So it turned out that my book wasn’t even close to being ready.  That was the bad news.  The good news is that I found some like-minded writers that were willing to help me.  It’s made a huge difference.

Another mistake I made was muddling things up with an omniscient point of view.  I didn’t even realize I was doing it until one of my reviewers pointed it out.  I asked her for a recommendation on a book on point of view (POV).  I took her suggestion and read some other books and brought myself up to speed.  There’s a dramatic difference in my writing now, and I’ve learned to unleash the power of third-person limited POV.

Another issue that came up was that no one liked my main character.  She was the star of the first chapter, but that first chapter was also the oldest writing in the book.  It was stilted and awkward, and it made my character seem the same way.

Instead of expecting everyone to ignore that problem and just move on, I rewrote that chapter a number of times, each time getting a little more out of the character, until I got it right and she became the likable character that I knew she was.  

It doesn’t help if your character comes to life in chapter six, if the character isn’t compelling in chapter one.  No one will read past the first chapter if they don’t like what they are reading.  How would I have known this without the feedback from the other writers and the platform?

The other big thing that emerged from using the CritiqueMatch platform was the line by line editing.  This is how you catch all the typos and other mistakes.  This is invaluable.  No matter how much you stare at the page, you are never going to catch all the errors.

Sometimes the error involves grammar.  Other times it’s about word choice.  Maybe the character says something out of character, but you didn’t catch it.  A good editor will flag it.  Going through the process, you end up with tighter, more consistent writing.

One thing you have to deal with is that typically most of your feedback will be negative in the beginning.  It makes a lot of sense if you think about it.  The beginning is where you are going to make most of your mistakes.

One person told me that if they had picked up my book in a bookstore and read the prologue, they would have put the book back on the shelf.  Ouch.  But I’m not thin-skinned and I actually appreciated the honesty.  You want that.  Brutal honesty.  It will help you get to where you want to go quicker.

It turned out, she wasn’t the only one to object to the prologue.  Eventually, I ended up dropping it.  I also started the book with an action story, instead of the romance story.  Why?  It’s not because I don’t believe in my writing.  I do.  But I believe in readers’ feedback even more.

I came across some self-published sci fi authors and read reviews on their work.  A lot of the reviews were negative.  I learned a lot by reading those reviews.  It became clear to me that the authors would have benefitted from the feedback before publishing.  That’s what led me to seek out in the first place.

I’m serious about writing, but I didn’t see myself writing letters to editors so I could get rejection letters written by robots.  They won’t give you any real feedback.  And I’m too much of a do-it-yourself person for that. 

I’ve thrived on the internet for the last twenty or so years.  The offline world doesn’t appeal to me.  Do you really expect me to work with an editor who will take months to review my work?  Why would I do that if I can get daily feedback?

Honestly, I see this platform as the missing piece to self-publishing.  One thing I’ve learned throughout the process is that it is impossible to self-edit.  It’s like the old saying with lawyers.  A lawyer representing himself has a fool for a client.  A writer editing themselves has zero chance of getting it right.  Ok, maybe not zero, but you know what I’m saying.

I hope to get Star Faer - The Queen Of Zori out on Amazon this summer.  Thank you and the writers there that I’m working with.  It’s just what I needed to give me the confidence that I’m writing the best book that I can.


Max Vonne is a sci fi writer who blends science fiction and fantasy.  The Kaedra galaxy is at the heart of his work.  To develop it, he wrote a custom computer program that created thousands of stars and planets.  His books explore stories involving those worlds.  You can visit these worlds at