When I read a manuscript, I go in thinking, “It’s going to suck absolute ASS! It’s complete and utter tripe that isn’t worth the submission to Fanfiction.net. Brain cells will be lost and I will never recover my original thought capacity. I hate everything that the work and the author stands for, and the flaws that come will be magnified x10 and exploited for my own sick amusement.”
In other words, be a total bitch while critiquing. And with that mindset, the manuscript can only go uphill from there.
Hating a story from word one eliminates any bias for the author. This detachment is necessary in order to give an impartial yet stern critique. I’m not saying send a draft to your arch nemesis, but give it to someone who isn’t afraid to hurt your sensitive feelings for the greater good.
I’ll admit, I do get a little squeamish when writing a critique for someone, afraid how they will take it. And there is such a thing called Diplomacy and Constructive Criticism. At the same time, there is also a thing called Too Damn Bad. A writer doesn’t have their work critiqued for praise. The healthy has no need to go see a doctor. There’s something obviously broken within the manuscript, and it’s a beta’s job to see to the repairs.
I love, Love, LOVE everyone who trusts me enough with their project. That trust is pure and delicate, and it’s only fair that I do right by them and wreck their world up. Once your Tower of Babel falls, a trusty beta will bend over backwards to help rebuild your empire, brick by brick.
So, if you want a Yes Man or an entourage of drones nodding at every clever metaphor you come up with, then by all means, get your BFF to read your book. But if you want to grow as a writer, and take your work to its fullest potential, get a pack of evil harpies who will question every move you make. Trust me; you’ll be better off for it.