As a new writer or an experienced writer, it’s not always easy for us to identify our strengths and weaknesses. I experienced this when I recently had to answers questions about my writing. Was my self-assessment accurate? I tend to be hard on myself, so I may have graded my work harsher than I should have. I’m okay with that. If I believe my writing needs improvement, I’ll continue to learn and grow. If I think it’s perfect, I won’t. Which writer would you rather be?
But I think it’s important for all writers to evaluate their skills as honestly as possible. If you know what you need to work on before you have a story critiqued, it’ll be easier to take the criticism. And you’ll be more open to improving.
The problem is writers can be blind to their own flaws. They can sometimes believe their stories are golden, so when a critique partner, freelance editor, agent, or publisher tells them their writing needs work, writers can come unglued or become discouraged. Don’t give up on your dream just because you received some harsh but truthful criticism. Take a look at your work through the critiquer’s eyes and see what he sees. Can you fix this? Do you want to?
I’m a freelance editor. Writers hire me to find flaws in their work. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they’re ready to hear the truth. Still, it’s my job to relay to them what is and isn’t working in their manuscripts. Sometimes, there are more things that need improvement than there are things that don’t. That’s just the way it is. I wouldn’t be doing my clients any favors if I stroked their ego and said there were only a few issues, when in reality the whole story needs to be rewritten.
That’s the part of my job I don’t like. I never know how a client will take my criticism. I try to keep the sting to a minimum by sticking to the facts and offering suggestions or explanations about what’s wrong so the author can learn from the experience. Does she have a tough skin? Is she expecting to see so many flaws? Is she determined to work on her story until it shines or toss in the towel?
Regardless of her answers to these questions, there’s only one answer I can offer. The truth.
If you’re honest with yourself and your ability as a writer, you’ll be ready to hear it.
Do you know your writing strengths and weaknesses?
Availability update: My next slot is April 28, 2015.
Critique group contest update: Congratulations to Sharon Wray, the newest member of Rumored Romantics.