I’ve never met a woman who didn’t love her child. The kid’s not perfect, but it doesn’t matter. Mom pours all of her heart and efforts into her little one and she loves the results, warts and all.
That’s you and your manuscript. You’re too emotionally attached, so you need an outside opinion. Your mom, best friend, and neighbor don’t count. They like you – they don’t want to hurt your feelings. You need another writer, a fiction writer. Ask him to critique your work, and get ready for the results.
A critique is more than an edit. Any editor can read your writing and point out grammar, punctuation, and formatting issues. A critique partner not only understands fiction, he knows how to write it. A good crit partner will point out the following:
– Active vs. Passive
– Telling instead of showing
– Character arcs: do you have them?
– Character motivation: is it clear and believable?
– Voices: do your characters all sound the same?
– Inconsistencies in setting, descriptions, and timeline
– Unbelievable situations and reactions
– On and on and on
A good crit partner is:
– A fiction writer
– Someone who wants to help, not cut down
– Someone with a compatible schedule
– Someone with an eye for your weaknesses (to help you identify and improve them)
– An encourager
It may take awhile to find someone you can work with, but it’s worth the effort. I worked through two different crit groups before finding my current partner. We work at a similar pace and challenge each other to improve. She sees things that I’d never notice, and I have an eye for the things she misses. I can see the improvements that we’re both making, but there are still enough errors that I wouldn’t want to write without her.
Critiquing isn’t about nit-picking someone else’s writing – it’s about helping find weaknesses to strengthen the novel. Think of it as pruning: you have to make some cuts in order to have a healthier novel. Stop back next week for some tips on how to be a good crit partner.