Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Other Eyes See More When Critiquing Your Writing

When I critique the work of my fellow writers in my online writing group, I see things that need fixing that I never see in my own writing. In reverse, when others critique my writing, they point out areas that I completely overlooked when doing the editing on the story or essay.

Why, I have asked myself many times, is it easier to see errors in other peoples' writing than in your own? I don't have a definitive answer to that question but perhaps it is a matter of objectivity versus subjectivity.

I can be completely objective when I critique the work of another writer. I have no emotional attachment to it. It is fresh meat--I've never seen it before.

When I edit my own work, I do have an emotional attachment and I've seen it too many times to count. I write a first draft, edit, revise, edit again and read it dozens of times in-between while deciding what to do to make my work better. And the keywords here are my work. Because it's mine, it's more difficult to be objective. I also tend to skip over little things like unnecessary words, repetition, awkward sentences and ones that are somewhat unclear. It's easier to skip past those minor problems when you have read the piece multiple times.

When I am critiquing a story written by another person, those things I mentioned in the paragraph above are the things that jump out at me. I'm tuned-in to finding them. I also look for that all-important universal truth sentence in an essay. I look for emotional impact. I look for reader appeal.

In my own essays, I know what it is that I'm attempting to get across to my readers, but sometimes I don't make it clear in the writing. And, because I feel the emotions when writing, I don't always check to make sure there is enough to bring out emotion in the reader.

One of the reasons for allowing whatever you've written to sit quietly somewhere for days, or even longer, is that little things that need fixing tend to jump out when you read it again. Do not ever, ever finish a story and submit it immediately. That's a subject for another post someday! Have I ever done it? Yes, and I usually wish I had not.

I hope I have made a case for the importance of having someone else critique your writing. They will find things that you never saw and, once you make the corrections, you'll end up with a stronger piece of writing.

My online writing group runs a membership of around 25 members. Over and over, I've seen those writers remark that they wonder why they had not seen the places that needed fixing in their own work. Instead, it took other eyes to zero in on the problem areas.


  1. "because I feel the emotions when writing, I don't always check to make sure there is enough to bring out emotion in the reader." Yes, this! My beta readers recently had some serious issues with my heroine in a few scenes--said she was bitchy and unsympathetic. In my head, she was emotional and sympathetic and not bitchy at all. Guess I forgot to write her that way on the page, eh? (I apologize if a version of this post appears more than once. I've tried several times to post and nothing ever seems to go through)

    1. You bring up a very good point--that the author 'feels' the emotions so doesn't always write it clearly enough for the readers to feel the same emotions. It's the same when writing memoir, or creative nonfiction--the author was there when the event occurred, they know what things looked like etc. The important thing is to write it so the reader is in the scene as well. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I totally agree, Nancy. That's why I joined the same online writing group. Happy to "meet" you!

    1. Thanks, Mickey. Joining wac, many years ago, was one of the best things I've ever done.