In the first year here at Hatrack, in one group, there were three complete novels critiqued in the first six months. This happened because the group members were interested in reading faster than on a chapter-by-chapter basis.
I have critiqued novels both ways, and I have decided that it might be a good idea to offer three options to people who want feedback on their novels. Please be aware, however, that the critiquer gets to choose which way works best for the critiquer. Yes, the writer wants as much feedback as possible as quickly as possible, but if it's going to be any faster than one chapter at a time, the critiquer should be the one to say.
Option 1--writer emails the complete manuscript and the critiquer reads it and comments on a chapter (or some small segment) a week (or more, if the critiquer feels so inclined).
Option 2--writer emails a partial (first three chapters or first 20 pages and an outline of the whole novel) and critiquer comments on that--and then tells the writer whether to send more. This mimics the experience of most writers when they send material to an editor. (It's a good idea to have an outline ready in any case.) Also, if your novel has any particularly troublesome problems, you can learn about them and fix them without irritating the critiquer by making him or her read the whole thing.
Option 3--writer emails a chapter (or small segment--no more than 7500 words) a week and critiquer has to wait to read each installment.
Please remember that there are other people in each group who want feedback on their work as well. The above options assume that the novel is the only thing being read and critiqued--which won't be true in a real group. If you want your whole novel read as quickly as those three novels I mentioned above were read, you are going to need to be willing to =read= at least two other novels that fast, too.
Under normal circumstances, novel chapters will have to take turns with other members' work--which means this could be a =long= process.
I am interested in any input or suggestions you may have on this subject.
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited November 09, 2007).]