Firstly, forget hearts, likes, votes, and shelf space
They are tiny rewards, like winning a game of Candy Crush. You’re in it from the long haul, right? You want to know how to develop your writing and put smiles on faces, so ask for critiques rather than comments or likes.
Also avoid ‘I will give you super harsh critic’
Even if they had written ‘critique’, you’re not looking for harsh criticism. You’re looking for constructive criticism or an honest read.
Advertise to your audience (age and genre)
Swapping with anyone who wants a read can get you going. However, the only readers which really matter, are your general audience. It’s no good when someone start a comment with ‘It’s not my thing, but’. They’re not your target audience, and they’re not the ones buying the book.
Offer a cracking critique
First, actually read the thing. Next, avoid unoriginal and vague comments like ‘show don’t tell’ because it can mean a number of things and the writer probably can't improve off of that. Instead tell them specific lines that stood out to you, and try to pinpoint why. Oh, and always pick out the lines you like, too. Not only will they trust your criticism more, they will feel like you've really read it.
If you don’t understand a critic, then ask
There seems to be a ‘don’t talk back to the critic’ attitude, which doesn’t make any sense. But I don’t mean chew their ear off, either. Make sure they know your intentions are to understand them, not to berate or even change their minds. Ask politely ‘I don’t understand why you said XYZ but I’d like to’ or ‘Could you be more specific about this point, as I’m not sure what you meant’.
Read critiques twice
Sometimes the first read stings. Go to sleep, have a snack or something, then come back and read it again. Maybe it’s actually the change you need.
Spend some time making friends
Hang around in forums, get involved in groups, and even offer a free read here and there. There are a lot of great writers out there. Go find them.
Use more than one website
Each site has different strengths, different weaknesses. Explore your options, but make one site your main writing hub so that your novel is easier to accumulate followers for. I’ll be doing a review of the top writing sites soon for those of you who aren't sure where to post your work.
Cheers for reading!