Critique Process: the Road to Publishing

critique process

If I’m being completely honest, I’m the worst kind of writer there is.  I write and write and write.  Then when I finally get to the end of the first draft, I just stop.  My draft sits in a folder on my computer and accumulates a thick layer of cyber dust so to speak.  When I think about getting the critique process started and editing my work, my fingers freeze on the keyboard.  Unable to move and usually leads me to exit out of Scrivener where my writing stays buried for at least another year before I open it again.  So why is it so hard for me to take the next step from the first draft to the second draft?  Recently, I slogged my way through some very pitiful edits and posted my pseudo-second draft to the critique website, Scribophile.  Here’s what I found out in the first foray into the next step in publishing my writing.

I have a better idea of where to start editing!

Firstly, I had no idea where to start the editing process.  I mean, I thought I did.  Reading through my novel in progress helped initially.  I picked out the glaringly large problems in the writing to attend to.  Plot holes and threads that direly needed attending to were easy enough to catch on my initial read through.  However, what I didn’t really know was where I should start.  When you have 100,000 words plus that need to be reworked, it’s overwhelming, to say the least.  The critique process really helped in that regard.  By having a handful of other people look through my writing, it gave me a better handle on what I needed to focus on.  It showed me what readers were tripping on while reading my work.  With the focused critique I received from my readers on Scribophile, I feel like I have a better understanding of where my first edits need to be.

The critique process actually motivates me more!

Photo by Berkay Gumustekin on Unsplash

I think almost any writer enjoys a pat on the back.  That “good boy” and “atta girl” from another person feels fantastic.  If I’m honest with myself, that’s what I love the most about writing fanfiction.  I’m like a dog.  Tell me I’m a good writer and watch me wag my fluffy little tail.  Compliments, unfortunately, don’t help a writer become a better writer.  In fact, the more compliments I get, the less likely I’m going to be to seriously edit my work.  I know that my work isn’t perfect in its word vomit first draft stage.  I’m not that naive or arrogant.  What it really is there doesn’t feel like a real push to improve my writing.  This then leads to my utter embarrassment a few months down the road when I look at my work again.  A critique, though, feels more like an invested reader telling me that while my writing is good, it could be better with some more time and energy.  This is the gentle reminder that I need to keep going past that first draft stage.

Not all critiques are considered equal.

Obviously, I didn’t expect all who read my writing to instantly love it.  That’s not the point of the critique process.  See the above point.  What I did somewhat expect was that the critique I did get would be in depth, somewhat lengthy, and insightful.  However, what I consider in depth, lengthy, and insightful doesn’t always match up with the readers who chose to critique my work.  Now, I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the feedback I received.  That’s very far from the truth.  All the readers who took time to look through my writing were fantastic and brought up some really good points that I definitely intend on improving upon.   Some of the critiques I received, though, were rather short and focused on things that I specifically asked not to be commented on as it wasn’t what I was primarily worried about.  With that being said, I found that it’s important to think about the feedback you do get.

The people who leave it are trying to be helpful and genuinely want to help you improve your work.

Not all feedback needs to implemented in your draft!

With the above point being said, I found it important to remind myself that not every little fix that my critiquers gave me needed to be added to my draft.  Again, most of the critique I received was given in good faith and intended to help me. However, not all of it fits with the vision I have for the story as a whole.  There are lines of dialogue, specific points of views, and other details that I wrote for a specific reason.   I’m very attached to them.  This isn’t to say, though, that the concerns the critiquers brought up were invalid.  It simply made me realize that I needed to tweak some things to solve problems that my beloved bits and pieces caused.  If I implemented every feedback that I received during the critique process, I would probably end up with something I wasn’t entirely happy with.  I think I’d spend a lot of time wishing I’d kept that one line of dialogue or something of the like.

Final Thoughts

I have a better idea of where to start editing my work.  Without the critique I received from my readers on Scribophile, I’d probably still be completely lost and stuck at the starting line.  I have more confidence and a sense of direction.  I’m excited to start editing and see what other critiquers have to say about future drafts.  Who knows.  Maybe I’ll be ready to publish in some capacity by the end of the year!

How about everyone else?  Where are you on your writer’s journey?  I’d love to hear about it!  Drop me a line here in the comments or connect with me on my Tumblr.  You can also find me here on Scribophile.  Be aware though.  You will need to make an account in order to read, critique, or follow writers.

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