17 June

Welcome Story Critique - Play the Red Pen Game...


There was a movie in the '70s called, Walking Tall, about a sheriff who was a calm law enforcer, who walked his beat with confidence, holding a big old baseball bat. His controlled demeanor, and what he could do with that bat, if pressed, was what kept the townsfolk in line...or holy hell would be paid.

Well, the members of my in-person writers process group call my edit pen, Big Red, along the same lines of that movie — me, as the sheriff, and my pen that big old bat... lol... 

Of course, they know I'm not brutal or scary, but they've come to realize I'm passionate about making their pieces the very best they can be. I already KNOW they're all extremely talented. That has never been in question. The goal with those edits is NOT to demean, but to make their already wonderful works shine.

Where did I get my passion, you ask? From instructors who did the exact same for me.

A writer never learns, never evolves, from their successes. Advancement in one's métier comes from their highlighted mistakes, and through a figurative truckload of them over the years, I've learned to play a mind game with myself — the Red Pen Game.

After a work is finished — drafts, Read Out Loud, betas, rewrites — I ASSUME there ARE mistakes a plenty in that final draft. 

The Game: with the help of an editor, let's see how many we can find and annihilate! It's like a game of Battleship, where the author is unaware of his enemy's location, so the player needs help in finding and firing off those torpedoes to down those errant suckers!

The Key: by ASSUMING my work is flawed right from the start, I've taken the pressure off myself to be perfect to others. And with every flaw found, and corrected, it's like the downing of an enemy battleship, slaying each foe, inevitably advancing my artistic skill. 

I literally LOOK FORWARD to error location in my works from others! No, seriously!

I'm confident in my own skill as a wordsmith, but I know I am nowhere near perfect, and I need others to uncover what I myself cannot see, now, and for the rest of my artistic life.

Fear of Critique stems from a writer having little self-confidence in their own skill — again, the psychological. Are you getting now why I say writing is 90%  a mind game?

  • New writers shouldn't be self-conscious about their ability. 
  • New writers should feel empowered by their passion and eager to become a learning sponge, soaking up as much knowledge as possible about the literary arts, from every mentor who comes their way.

As long as the red pen critiques are,

  • specific to a certain flaw  - story development, line/style consistency, proofing
  • not a sweeping criticism or a blatant attack in terms of taste, or co-writer jealousy

Then welcome them with open arms, smile at their happenstance, rewrite, and learn to not make the same mistake again.

And above all, ask WHY? 

You need to know why a sentence or scene doesn't work to know why being delivered a different way does, so that you can internalize that error, and never make the same mistake again. 

Warning: If you gloss over these edits, you're not internalizing the errors, and you WILL be as a serial killer, and continue to maim your works in the same way, over and over again.

The Result: once you look at edits as a game and treat them in the right way, you will never be afraid to have your works thoroughly Red Penned. And that result, right there, will have you,

  • fearing the process less
  • wanting to write more
  • making less excuses not to write.

Your STOP Not Writing dragon greatly slayed...

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