Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Crit it like you hate it

I'm finishing up line edits with my editor, and while I'm in a great crit group *waves* and assist others in their writing, I feel like working with my editor has been the single best thing that could have happened to my critting and editing side ever. Why?

She's taught me to crit it like I hate it.

Let me explain. You have a chapter, you're reading through it. What do you normally check for?

1. misspelled words
2. funny placed words
3. basic idea carried through...
4. time schedules, where applicable

She's got me thinking about:

1. extra words. Are you saying too much where you could cut it down? Be more succinct? Editors don't pay by the word! Cut them out!

2. plot development. What actually *happens* to move the plot forward in this chapter? Because no matter what you think about how beautiful that paragraph is, if it's not bringing the story forward? It's gotta go.

3. Backstory. How much do you actually need? How much can you trust your reader to build for themself? Reading is a very individual activity, and imagination must be used. Are you taking away from the story and the reader's imagination by delivering everything on a platter?

4. Chunks. As in, 'blow chunks'. This relates to plot development. Everything should mesh...this goes for those parts that are beautiful but useless. They've got to go.

When I got the first marked-up manuscript, I almost had a HEART attack. She used pencil (thank goodness! It would have looked like a stabbing victim otherwise!) but it seemed everywhere I looked I needed to cut, cut, cut.

I trusted her, though, and decided to do it. I cut. And cut. And I realized, as I went along, that I could have seen lots of the cuts coming if I would have been honest with myself. I was just too in love with some paragraphs to let them go. But let them go I did, and I have a leaner, tighter, better book for it.

I will do this from now on, this critting technique. It's worth its weight in gold.

(x posted from our fourcorners blog)


JC said...

Very good points! I tend to over-edit my own writing, though. I need to learn when to "let it go".

Matthew Rush said...

Tough to swallow but so true! Thanks Jen.

Patti said...

Still trying to learn to manage the backstory. Sometimes things that you think are pertinent actually arent'.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Excellent advice! I hopped over from Project Mayhem to say hello. I love that blog! :-)

JKB said...

Hey JC! It's so hard. I was so in love with some things, and it was really difficult to see that it was better to let them go.

Matt, you're welcome! :-D

Patti, excellent point and so true.

Shannon, I'm so glad you love Project Mayhem! I do too. :-D