You’ve been told over and over that we writers must read to improve our craft. Over at the Story Cartel Course, we’ve been practicing critiquing. I’ve learned writers can’t just read, we must critique!
There’s a quantum difference between the engaged reading needed before I can do a critique and my normal browsy-lazy-let’s- enjoy-myself-and-escape-to-a-different-place reading.
In the Story Cartel Course we’re asked to list three likes before we list our dislikes. As responsible members of a writing community we also need to suggest ways to improve on what we dislike. Now that’s hard work. It’s certainly helped to improve my writing practice.
Here are three reasons critiquing can improve your writing:
1. You Gain Perspective
Many of us have trouble sharing our stories. But once you’ve gotten over the hurdle of fear and vulnerability and worked and reworked your story, you think you’re entitled to be read. After all, haven’t you done your best work?
Critiquing other writer’s unformed drafts helped me understand that being read isn’t a right. We become “readable” when we pay attention to “readability”. It’s a learning experience we can’t get reading Nobel prize-winning classics or our very own precious manuscript. It’s when we come to an “ah-hah!” moment after struggling through the first one-third of an unformed work, or start nodding off in the last third of something dense with poetic language that we realize the importance of a good start, engaging characters and proper pacing. It’s only then we learn to look for these hurdles in our own work.
2. You Value The Second and Third and Fourth Drafts
I’m a slow writer, editing and revising as I go along. Once I’m done, I send my stuff out to my reading group. After that, it’s one big revision and one grammar and spell check, and then it’s out the door with the story. Perfect enough, I thought. Critiquing—and reading other people’s critiques—has shown me that there are many ways to tell and re-tell a story.
There are some really talented writers in the Story Cartel Course. They’re willing to do the work; not only a second or third time but a fourth. I’ve seen how their stories morphed from good to great. It’s given me an appreciation for the fourth draft!
3. You Appreciate Stories That Connect Emotionally
The story that makes the emotional connection always carries the reader through to the end, no matter how many stutters and stumbles it has.
I’m a cerebral person, someone who’s moved by the beauty of the words.
Critiquing has taught me that the best stories are still the ones that move hearts. And what moves heart is simple honest vulnerability.
How about you? What have you learned about writing from critiquing?
In this practice, pick a practice from yesterday’s post. Comment on the piece with three reasons why you like the piece and then three ways it can be improved. Then, if you haven’t written a practice of your own, write one and post it in yesterday’s comments section.
Have fun and watch your own work improve.