I really have to thank the RNA (UK), as I finally completed my first novel in order to enter their wonderful New Writers’ Scheme a few years ago. This allows unpublished authors to submit the full manuscript of a romantic novel for an in-depth critique. The fee is well worth the resulting care and attention taken over the story.
We don’t get to know the reader’s name – and I don’t blame them considering how some people react to criticism! Having now had two quite different novels read through the scheme, I can say that you definitely need to be prepared for constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement. Great – that’s exactly what I want in a professional reading. I had good reports and their suggestions made both my novels stronger - and the first one is now being published!
I’d encourage anyone at the beginning of their full length fiction career to think about the New Writers’ Scheme, or the equivalent in other countries. But you have to be quick and apply to join in early January each year – they only take on 250 new writers and it's extremely popular. The complete novel is expected to be submitted by the end of August and you normally receive the report within a couple of months.
Once you eventually find a publisher (hopefully), you are then eligible for full membership of the association. So, leave aside the writer’s ego, take a deep breath and reap the benefits of a professional critique. And it's a great way to ensure you finish the novel!