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Getting The Most Out Of Critiques And Edits

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As an author, it’s never fun to get your manuscript back with red through all of your precious words. In fact, it’s probably one of the worst moments you can have as a writer. Self-doubt can fill you and make you wonder why you ever bothered to write such poor-quality stuff. But don’t fret. Just because there is a mass of red markings doesn’t mean that your work is of poor quality.

Other authors are not only your best resource; they are also your best source of support. The life of a writer can be difficult at times, full of ups and downs and the desire to throw in the towel. Chances are if you talk to another author they would not only give you great tips and advice, they will offer you the support and encouragement we all need when we put ourselves out there as we do when we present our writing.

One way that authors support each other is to review each other’s work. A second set of eyes and objective opinion are always worth having. Too many times when authors get their manuscripts back, they feel discouraged. The one sure way to avoid this is to realize three things:

First, it is one person’s opinion.

Second, if you stand back and consider suggestions made you might see something that you didn’t before.

Third, it’s a learning experience. Every author should learn something from each critique offered.

As the author, you have complete control over whether you want to make a change in your story or you don’t. When reading someone’s assessment of your work, if you don’t feel the same about a person’s comments, just skip it and move on to the next suggestion. If several people make the same suggestion, then you may want to rethink your lack of desire to make a change.

Don’t allow personal feelings to prevent you from getting the most out of critiques. It can be difficult when you have worked so hard to perfect a scene and others don’t see the perfection that you do. In this case, it is best to take a step back. Don’t make changes right away, or close your mind to suggestions made. Give yourself a day or two, keep working, see where your story is going and then go back and look at the critique once again.

There is a reason that authors write in drafts. First drafts are meant to be changed and torn apart. So are second, third, and fourth drafts. A manuscript isn’t complete until you as the author feel it is what it should be. In each draft, that you write you should learn something about your characters, your setting, your plot, and ultimately your writing style. When you allow others to review your draft, allow yourself to learn. Store away ideas, techniques, and phrases to use in your revisions.

Keep in mind your goal when reading through another’s analysis of your work. You are preparing your manuscript for the biggest reviewers of all–a publisher. It is an author’s job to give a publisher the cleanest manuscript possible. Remember when a publisher considers your piece for publication; they will take into account the amount of editing time necessary. If an author has presented a piece that will require an excessive amount of editing, there is a great possibility that the manuscript will be rejected.

Finally, the goal achieved you have received a contract on your manuscript. You may think that the majority of your work is done. The reality is, you have only just begun. Once a manuscript is accepted by a publishing company, the next step is for an editor to be assigned. An editor will be nit-picky. They will analyze every word, every comma, sentence structure, phrase, and writing style. Your editor’s job is to take what you have written and make it the best it can possibly be.

It’s not uncommon for the niggling feelings of self-doubt to return when you receive your ‘perfected’ manuscript back from the editor, once again torn apart. Bear in mind that if your work was not good, it would not have been accepted. An editor is that final set of eyes that will read your work before it goes to publication. They want to make sure that you have a book that will sell.

Once again when reading an editor’s comments, look at it from an objective point of view. Talk to other authors who have supported you along the way, and think of an editor’s suggestions as to help rather than criticism. At this point, you still have the power to decide what changes you will and will not make, however, it is in your best interest to strongly consider advice an editor gives.

Writing is not a field for those without tough skin. Even those with tough skin can fall into the trap of self-criticism when they receive their work marked up beyond recognition. But if you take the time to learn from those red marks, the chances of your next edit being less “bloody” are good. Don’t give up! Keep writing, it will keep you motivated despite the less than wonderful feedback you might sometimes receive.

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