Three Easy Ways to Check Your Writing
- 1. Critiques: This is the all important first step in getting your writing up to professional
standards. Why? Because more eyes on the work means that a)you can improve it, b)you’ll have “tested the waters,” and c)you can improve it. Okay, so a and c are the same choice but they’re strong reasons. The goal of letting others see your work is to get it out there for review. As writers, we can’t think our writing is above fault, that no one can point us toward a better direction. Sure, I wish I was perfect, but the reality is, it just isn’t so. A good critique partner will be there for you during the stages of your work-in-progress(hereafter referred to as w.i.p.), cajole you into shooting that next hoop, and advise you like a mentor would.
At first, it’s hard to swallow that our w.i.p. isn’t amazing, brilliant, the best thing ever written. And we wait for that kind of feedback. But when it comes, we find that we are in fact, human. Errors happen, to everyone. A mix-up in eye-color, a change of clothes within a scene, calling a character by two different names, on and on the list goes. You see, your partner is there to find these little mistakes. They’re not “out to get you.”
Listening to constructive criticism can put our work further toward the goal of leaving the slushpile behind. Our partner knows how things are, how tempted we are to give up, how hard it is to crack that egg. They also help us clean that mess up. Now, I admit, I’ve run across some bad ones. Attacking someone personally for their efforts, taking offense as to the subject matter, and bailing on you just when things start turning around. You need someone who sees eye-to-eye with you but isn’t afraid to tell you how it is. Kind of like your real-life partner. It’s a marriage of sorts.
- 2. Self-edit. This is stage two, after the crits are in. You look at what you’ve been told
and really turn it over in your mind until you make sure it fits the work. I’m not saying to take every single piece of advice without question. It has to fit your vision, your ideals of the world you’re writing in. At the same time, don’t let yourself be so disgruntled that you turn up your nose at what they have to say. It may make the difference between publication and obscurity for the w.i.p.
Honestly, if you can’t work with another to fix the problems, how will you work with an agent or editor for the same reasons? Think of all this is a practice run. A way to hone your skills. I have some great ladies I work with at YAFF, each and every one lends her perspective. I’ve learned their strengths and weaknesses just as they’ve learned mine. This helps tremendously in tearing apart the manuscript and then putting it back together again. I trust them. And that’s the most important thing you can say about your partner.
- 3. Beta. This is the biggest of the three. It’s where your story should be polished
to perfection, and a last look taken before it is sent out to the agent. All your I’s are dotted, all your T’s crossed. There’s no more scrubbing, no more doubt as to whether you’re on the right track. This is the final peek. Instead of taking a chapter by chapter review of your w.i.p., they’ve got the whole shebang in their laps. Glaring errors jump to the forefront and can be weeded out now. If something is majorly wrong, this can save you egg on your face. There’s no shame in having to go back over these steps.
Your story is important. To you. To the agent/editor. To the reader. Getting it “right” is what matters. Betas are more critical than previous critiques. Because they are the end-all. Again the last eyes on your manuscript. If something’s wrong, they’re going to catch it. I can’t stress enough how important trust is between you and the person reviewing your writing. You don’t want someone who doesn’t care whether you succeed or not, who only rips into it to attack you on a personal level. You want someone who can unfurl those wings, get you ready to soar. You gain confidence from this stage, a surety that you gave your w.i.p. your best shot.
Above all, believe in yourself. You wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t care about others one day reading your book. Don’t rush through and send it out before it’s ready. Take that extra time. See to backbone as well as the fleshing out of the novel. It WILL make a difference, I promise.