I’ve spent the last three days trapped in a room with two of my critique partners, working on their Golden Heart entries an average of 16 hours a day. We only stopped to eat, although I have to admit we’ve spent a lot of time laughing.
We honestly can’t help it. When the three of us get together, we invariably burst into fits of uncontrollable laughter, tears streaming down our faces, unable to breathe, and since we shared a recent cold/bronchitis, we end up coughing too. It ain’t pretty.
I met Laura and Deborah, last April at a writer’s retreat. They are sisters and have since adopted me. We were instant friends and soon began meeting and critiquing each others work. They live in my area, and there’s something to be said for meeting at a Starbucks less than a mile away from my house, especially when I spend 18 hours a week driving. They’re relatively new to writing, and working with them on their manuscripts has taught me a great deal.
When I began to critique other’s work, something would bother me, but I was difficult to figure out exactly what it was. Not now. I seem to have developed an inner alarm system that stops me if the scene begins to drag or if the author goes on a tangent that takes away from the purpose of the scene. I’m not sure if it’s just practice or working closely with Laura and Deborah, but my ability to accurately pinpoint a problem not only helped them, it’s helped me with my own writing.
My grammar and punctuation have improved. And believe me, it needed improvement. I’ve finally figured out the whole past perfect tense issue, I’ve discovered that the semicolon is not just something to be feared, ellipses, which were always my downfall, have practically disappeared from my manuscripts, and I’m getting a real handle on the comma situation. I’m sure my copy editor will be thrilled.
I’ve reaffirmed my belief in the importance of writing active sentences and learned every possible way to make the passive voice active. I’ve discovered tired and overused writing conventions that only add a barrier, thin though it might be, between the reader and the characters. You can see through cellophane, but the more pieces you add, the more distorted the view. You want sharp, clean, and fresh writing. Tired, overused words and phrasing only muddy the works. Early on in my writing career I was given the book, On Writing Well by William Zinsser. That book changed my life and my writing for the better. It’s amazing how much a manuscript can improve by writing succinctly.
These last three days have been long and difficult but I’ve grown as a writer and a critique partner. With the right critique partners, you not only continue to learn and improve your own writing, you form long and valuable friendships. You’re given a gift; the joy of a shared journey with those sisters you laugh with and love.