how to become a writing critic

How to become your own Writing Critic

You’ve probably been given the advice to receive outside feedback on your writing. Sharing your writing lets you test how readers will react to your opening scene and allows you to share your passion project with someone else. It also lends the opportunity for someone to catch all the grammatical errors that you missed.

However, what about the times when your writing group is completely booked? What if you simply don’t have the money to hire a professional editor? In these cases, you’ll have the option of waiting for the eventual opportunity for peer review; however, sometimes when these circumstances become indefinite, you’ll need to take matters into your own hands.

Time doesn’t wait for anybody, especially when it comes to completing your own manuscripts. That’s why you need to become your greatest critic when reviewing your own writing. I’m not saying you should give up peer review completely; however, you should train yourself to read your work like an outsider.

Here’s a guide on how you can become your own best writing critic.

Don’t be afraid to cut out the unnecessary

If you read a scene that goes like this:

“Hi John,” Sally said when she entered the room.

“Hey, Sally,” John said.

“How’s your day?” Sally asked.

“Oh, fine,” John answered.

“I’m doing quite lovely myself. I went to the gym yesterday,” Sally announced. Maybe John would notice her progress and finally give her the endearing complement she deserved!

“Oh really?”

“Yeah.”

John looked at Sally up and down and gave a nervous laugh, “Well, I don’t want to be blunt, but you still look like you haven’t lost a thing.”

The red text is garbage, while the black text is what you should keep.

Sally and John greeting each other can be considered unnecessary fluff. The conflict of John disagreeing with Sally prolongs itself by the first two unnecessary sentences. When you need to prune your work, you should strive to develop an eye for what you can keep and what you can cut when presenting a scene.

The alternative to the scene reads like this:

“I went to the gym today,” Sally announced as she entered the room. Maybe John would notice her progress and finally give her the endearing complement she deserved!

John looked at Sally up and down and gave a nervous laugh, “Well, I don’t want to be blunt, but you still look like you haven’t lost a thing.”

See how much faster it took to get to the meat of this scene? Now you can use the rest of the pages to develop their conflict!

…And don’t be afraid to cut beloved characters or scenes

Sometimes a certain character, arc, or scene just doesn’t jive with the rest of the manuscript. You should ask yourself what’s working and what jumbles what you’ve written. Every character arc or plotline should be finished by the end of the book; and if you’re writing a series, make sure the characters progress towards goals that lead towards a completed arc.

Don’t be afraid to delete your favorite scene if it makes your book better. Remember, you should make this the best you can before presenting your writing to the world!

Get a Good Look at Grammar

“But my writing’s perfect! It’s an art form!” you might be screaming.

And if you are, then you might be in denial that it needs work (unless you’re a savant, but I’m going to assume that you most likely aren’t). To become a master writer, you need to understand the fundamentals of the English language.

Remember, painters must learn the basic of drawing, engineers must learn the basics of math, and coders must learn the basics of coding. Just because you learned to write when you were five doesn’t mean you can coast when it comes to developing this skill. There’s a certain way story arcs and scenes should flow for a reason.

People in the writing industry don’t have time to correct ultra-poor grammar, which is why you need to understand these concepts yourself. Decide if you want to use the Oxford comma and stick to it. Don’t spell color on one page as colour on the next. And get cozy with concepts such as adjectives, advice and passive voice, and literary devices.

Take a serious look at conflict

If your book has a few dynamic scenes and whole lot of filler just to get to the point, you may need to learn how to critique your own content.

Characters make up the meat of your book. They drive the story with their hopes, wishes, desires, and personalities. If the world would stay the same without your characters, then your concept needs work.

Characters should always be at odds with each other or driving the story in some way. Everything your character does should reflect how they make it to the end of book. If a scene doesn’t change your characters, set up a plot point, world build, address a concern, or contribute to the story in some meaningful way, scrap it.

Set the work aside for a week

When an author spends time away from their work, they reread it with fresh eyes. If you read the same sentences over and over, then you’re bound to become biased to your writing.

Critiquing your own work with a new outlook can help you rejuvenate your ideas while giving you time to explore other stories. Whether you choose to read more books in that time or begin a new story, a short break away will help you bring new insight when critiquing your work.

Some sources say you should wait a month, but a week away from your book should suffice. However, make sure you don’t spend so much time away from your writing that you never get back to it!

 

 

 

 

 

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