In the past year I have started swapping stories with other authors, for beta reading, and critiquing. In exchange I have gotten some great feedback on my own work. Keep in mind; great feedback is not “OMG, I love your book!” But rather, “You have a problem here and it really needs to be fixed.” I love the compliments, but compliments don’t fix troublesome stories. Criticism does.
More importantly I’ve been able to offer that criticism. I have read some great works that are going to be loved by audiences. The story still needed help. I’ve done my best to give the author feedback so that she can work on the story and make it better. Make it ready to an audience.
I love critique editing. It’s hard work to get through a book sometimes. But to find that magic that is there and help bring it out? Amazing. By critiquing other people’s work I look at my own work in a more critical manner. Depending on the day I want to either slash up my work or feel good about what I’ve done. On the slashing days I can been seen sobbing to my husband, begging him to give the “bad” feedback:
Husband: Yes, honey, your writing is amazing.
Over dramatic author, sniffling through her tears: You really think so? You haven’t read the last five drafts, but you really think so?
Of course he does. And of course he goes on to mention a scene that hit the cutting room floor years ago. But that’s okay. I still love him.
The downside with doing critiquing is that I’m critiquing books that have already been published. I want to fix the plot holes, move sentences around, cut out that section… Often times I need to remind myself that someone else has already edited this book, and the author is making a decent living off of the writing, so who am I to be offering up critiques?
My strength is plot critiquing. Looking at the flow of the story. Seeing how it all comes together. It’s exciting to see how a plot is laid out, where it goes, how it is resolved.
It’s easier to critique someone else’s writing than my own. Point out problem. Let author handle it. When critiquing my own work I point out problem, then pull my hair out trying to figure out how to handle it.
Or rather I tackle husband and ramble off confusing plot while looking up at him with hero worship eyes. He makes a few suggestions, since he’s that nice of a guy. I dismiss both options for X, Y, Z reason. He gives up and I’m back to pulling my hair out. Until two days later, when an idea pops into my head. I come back to him, triumphant in my discovery, only to be reminded he came up with it first…
But that’s okay. He still loves me.