I don't know what it is about us writers, (maybe it's because most of us are poor) but we are constantly striving to find new and improved ways to get the writing work done without shelling out the dough.
Don't get me wrong. I think, because we are also creative types, that we feel as if we can do it all (or at the very least) feel as if we can get everyone else to do it for us for free.
And while this may be true in many respects, it's the word "respect" that I want to focus on today, for, although you may ask your best friend to help you edit and/or critique your latest novel, it may not be in your best interest to do so, at least not with this particular friend.
When it comes to editing a piece of work it's not enough for the reader to say, I liked it, or it was good, right? You need more concrete answers like, the plot seems to have some holes in it, and this is where I found them or, the main character didn't feel strong enough to me. It was almost like the secondary characters ran the novel.
While it is true that there are various editing styles, from the English teacher grammar generals to the general reader types, it's important to get just the right friends and acquaintances to look over your work.
Here are some guidelines I use when deciding who to have read my work:
1. I like them to be well-read in the genre in which I'm having them assist me. It's much harder to get clear answers when the individual is struggling to understand your fantasy world (having never before read a fantasy).
2. I like them to be honest with solutions. If they have a concern, I want to know what it is and WHY they have the concern. It doesn't work for me to have a person say, I didn't like this part, and leave it at that.
3. I like to have a combination of English teacher types and book reader types. Each type of reader focuses on different aspects of the book so I get a well-round list of ideas to improve my work.
4. Free editors/critiquers can be found online, but I would be wary of asking anyone in which you haven't yet learned more about. Most usually charge anyway. If someone wants to swap books with you for an edit, just make sure you swap with someone who has read your genre and vice versa.
5. If you've previously used someone to edit/critique your book and they were about as focused on getting it accomplished as a turtle, consider finding someone else. It's difficult for many readers to stay motivated (even if they like you) without pay, and you may find that another reader will be more prompt in returning your manuscript when you need it.
6. Be clear about your expectations especially when asking family to edit/critique your work. You want honest feedback, not some warm fuzzy drama about everything you've put on the paper.
All in all, free editors/critiquers are a bit like the icing on the cake. While there are some friends out there who like to help, and like reading enough to help you, not everyone will have the time or interest.
And that's good because you only want the best.