Thursday, July 21, 2011

Getting Critical

Critique is an important part of the writing and self-editing process. As authors, we are rarely the best judges of our own work. We know it too well to be able to look at it objectively.

I have two separate groups of friends reading HIS GOOD OPINION. The first is a group of three critique partners. After I finish three edits on my own, I send a section of the story to them. They look over it, pointing out things like transcription errors (I dictate my novels), poor grammar, and places that need more detail work.

By the time I receive chapters back from them, at least three weeks has usually passed. I've pushed on with the story, and both the distance of time and narrative allows me to look at their suggestions with a more objective eye.

I'll be honest: At this point, I accept pretty much every suggestion they make. Their job is to point out the things that would take my story from good to great. I chose them because I trust their judgment, and they have not disappointed me.

After I've gone over critiques, I let those chapters sit for a few weeks. Then I go back through yet again and add some polish. I check for things like -ing verbs and unnecessary adverbs. When the story is as good as I can get it, I send it to my beta readers. Their instruction is to point out anything that takes them out of the story.

Once again, I follow the bulk of their suggestions. To be blunt, I see no reason to send my story to people I don't trust. If they question something, they are probably right. My only true exception to this rule is when making the change would not fall in line with my writing style, or that of Jane Austen.

Bottom line: Remember these people want your story to be the very best it can be. Trust them, but don't lose sight of the story you want to tell.