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Okay, I don't really have any friends who write. (or in general) And I wanted to know if it was too biased for my family to edit my writing.

My mom likes to read my stuff and I let her fix grammar mistakes all the time, but would their opinion be biased towards me if they do this and I won't receive constructive criticism from them?

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  • For many writers, their spouse is their most valuable critic. The reason, I guess, is that they know the writer and what they intend and don't attempt to push the work into a direction that is no longer true to the writer's person. Your family may be better able to help you make your writing your own, while a stranger might attempt to make your work their own. But it certainly depends on your family's ability to let you be who you are. Some families are known to suppress individual development, and those kinds of parents would definitely be harmful as critics.
    – user26338
    Sep 7, 2017 at 11:27
  • It's good that my family is somewhat accepting, then. (: Sep 7, 2017 at 14:34

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They are your family. They will be biased. That doesn't mean they can't lend constructive criticism if you really impress on them how important it is that they be unbiased. Be very clear about saying that anything bad or even neutral can vastly help your writing - it can.

That being said, they will always be a bit biased no matter how hard they try not to be. Your family is a great place to get advice, but if you're really ready for the brutally demoralizingly-honest opinions you need to go elsewhere. Your friends are likely to less understand your need than your family, meaning they will likely only tell you the good stuff about your writing. You need a truly impartial viewer.

As it turns out, this is exactly what a freelance editor does. You can go to Fiverr.com and find plenty of people willing to edit/proofread/critique your book, generally for relatively low prices. If you want a slightly more professional experience, try looking for someone who does freelance editing as their job. Chances are it will cost more.

If you're ready for the big guns, start contacting agents. Their whole purpose is to get your book ready to be published, and that includes editing and critiquing. Be warned though: agents make money based on how well the book does, so they will be merciless.*

*It should be noted that I have never contacted an agent. While perfectly logical, this is still speculation.

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    +1 A family member may be a good place to start, but don't make that your last editor exactly because of the potential bias. She may not want to hurt your feelings and you want someone to be brutally honest.
    – DoctorWhom
    Sep 1, 2017 at 22:28
  • Agreed Thomas, that's the only thing I'd add to the above
    – Matt
    Sep 2, 2017 at 1:29
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    "Their whole purpose is to get your book ready to be published" No, their whole purpose is to find writers who can make them money by producing books that fit the market niche they specialize in. That does not mean that they won't help you improve your book if they think the time they invest is going to pay off in lucrative sales, but it is not their raison d'etre, nor is it necessarily their skill set. The role of an agent is to sell your book to publishers and to represent you in negotiating the sale of your rights. If you want a development edit, hire an editor.
    – user16226
    Sep 2, 2017 at 3:47
  • The flip side is also important. How will you react to any criticism. Are you able to separate the personal from the "professional" and not take critique on your writing personally? Taking on board advise from an associate or professional is one thing, but are you able to separate the "you just don't understand me" when you're dealing with family/friends?
    – user18397
    Sep 3, 2017 at 23:22
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Sure. But the problem is not just bias, the problem is that, in most families, your mother or father or brother cannot tell you the truth if the truth is they hated it, or were bored and skipped a hundred pages, or cannot bring themselves to comment truthfully on their child's explicit sex scene.

If you do, I would warn them up front you are going to ask them, "What was the worst writing you read here?" And you expect a real answer. Don't ask them to be brutal, and don't tell them "don't hold back", because chances are you don't mean it. Ask them to tell you what needs work.

Or ask them to complete a questionnaire, so you can ask real questions, and remind them you really want to publish so finding reasons to praise you is not being kind. Being kind is helping you see what did not work in their opinion (so they cannot be wrong, it is just their opinion).

What is their best guess as to why a professional would reject it? What was unbelievable? What is below par? The love scenes? The sex scenes? What part confused them the most? What did they think this story was about?

Tell them, in the end, you want to send this to a stranger, and you don't want that stranger to put it down after five minutes and stamp it "rejection letter #1".

You should not argue with them or try to explain. Your chance to do that was in the book and you failed. Just soak it in, even if it burns. Be a pro. Acknowledge what they are saying. Laugh at yourself if you can. You don't necessarily have to address their issues. Take your notes (it lets you avert your eyes!) and then ask the next question.

You need a way to get honest feedback. One way you might is to set their expectations up front; that you aren't seeking and don't want praise, you want some light and to learn more about how to write.

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It depends whether you mean line edit (like grammar) or larger structural and character development type criticism.

Although in either case I would probably say no.

Firstly, you could get your mum (I'm British) to fix your grammar, and that's not really a problem, but it is indicative of a larger problem - which is that if you want to be a writer, you need to get to the point where your grammar is pretty flawless yourself. Yes, you will have people proofread your work to find the odd grammar or spelling glitch, but this should not be a major job.

Onto the more important things, which is the larger constructive criticism of your story itself.

Unless you mum or dad or whoever is a writer themselves, then it's very unlikely they will be in a position to give a useful critique. They might give you feedback that is not very helpful, or worse - actively harmful.

Also, even if they give you the best feedback in the world, writing is so subjective, at the early stages of your novel you really need to be getting a range of opinions from people, so you can get a better of what is just someone's taste and what really is a problem with your book.

In my experience when you get feedback from ten writers, sometimes they will be split 50/50 and sometimes they will 90% agree that there's an issue. What would happen if it was the 50/50 and you only got feedback from one person? You might end up changing something that loads of other people would have loved.

What you should do:

You would be much better off finding a group of writers - either that meet in person or online (scribolphile is a good online one), post your writing there and get feedback from them.

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  • I know scribophile. I just don't know how to properly critique, so no one critiques me on it. Sep 4, 2017 at 19:08
  • Do you mean that you do know how to properly critique so you don't try? Or that you do try but nobody reciprocates? Sep 5, 2017 at 7:44
  • I do not know how to critique. Sep 5, 2017 at 15:31
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    Well in that case I would strongly recommend giving it a go - as you can learn so much about writing from critiquing others' work. I couldn't find a good guide to critiquing, so I quickly wrote one (I run a writing critique circle) and posted it on my blog: novel-software.com/… I really hope you find that useful. Sep 6, 2017 at 9:00
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Your family may be biased, and they may be too kind, but the deeper problem is that they will be interested in your story because you wrote it and they are interested in you. Thus they are in no position to judge whether or not it will be of interest to anybody else. You need the opinion of a reader who will read your story for its own sake and judge it on its merits, not on what it reveals about you.

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  • Thank you Mark, I will find someone to read it. Maybe a teacher or a peer who doesn't know my writing skills yet. I don't know, but I'll work on it. Sep 4, 2017 at 19:10
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I don't know about your family (the one that raised you), but mine would be the last place I would take anything! Not all families are supportive to say the least.

Even with a supportive family, how freely can you write with your mother/father/... "looking" over your shoulder?

If you write about someone taking drugs and appear to know what you're talking about (as you must if you want it to be good), are you going to be subjected to the third degree later as to how you knew? The same is true with any subject that they might not consider as appropriate for you to personally engage in.

If you want to explore anything "unrealistic" or outside the norms of conventional society, there's great richness well off the beaten path. But it's hard enough to get readers to accept such things, let alone family members who may view it as an indication of your mental health or lack thereof!

I'm almost ROTFL thinking about how it would have gone if William S. Burroughs had given his mother a draft of Naked Lunch to read!

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  • Aw hell, I never thought of that. Now I really need a sidekick to edit my stuff. Sep 6, 2017 at 17:45
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You should have someone with proofing and editing skills proof and edit your work.

If you have one of those people in your family, then go ahead. A professional editor should be able to put aside familial biases.

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