Critter Alert

I love to edit. There, I’ve said it. More specific, I love to critique work. I enjoy reading through someone else’s piece, finding places where I can tighten, streamline awkward choreography, fix continuity, and work on pesky word dilemmas like repetitive phrasing. Even with work that is already published, I find myself with mental red pen poised to “help” these writers fix their work. Admittedly, I also plain like seeing what other imaginative minds come up with way before it hits the book store digital or wooden shelves.

There is nothing more refreshing and sometimes very frustating than finding a truly well written piece of fiction months or possible years if ever before anyone else gets to see it.

Don’t misconstrue me here. I suck at editing my own work. I’m also not a professional editor. I miss things, and there are still many many many many things about grammatical and literary structure that I don’t know and/or understand. The process of critting however has taught me two ways since I began writing.

  1. To better my writing by having constructive criticism and instruction from those with a more critical eye and  who are perhaps better educated than myself.
  2. To better my writing by having a more critical eye toward others’ writing and finding commonalities with my own writing that I didn’t notice because I was too caught up in the story to see the skill deficiency.

As writers we talk about our art and the talent required to become great at it. We do sometimes forget to talk about the skill necessary to obtain that greatness however. With critique work (and I’ve only recently become very active in critique work – enough to really learn from it) I’ve started noticing trends mirrored in my writing from others, and it has been quite… liberating. So much so that I want to tear through everything older I’ve written with a fine tooth comb and eliminate all those annoyances.

But critique work is like walking a balance beam. If you maintain your balance, you stay in place where you should be (for the writer this would be critting others’ work and still finding time to write your own, with newly learned information from critique work). If you lean too far to the left or right however, you loose your balance (choosing to go back through all your old work and “fix” all the problems you never noticed/knew about before) and topple to the ground (no more new words = no more greatness-to-come). And no one ever received a perfect score from falling off the balance beam.

When used properly, critique work can be a wonderful catalyst for a person’s writing. Inspired by the imagination of others and armed with new rules never before known, a writer can feel rejuvenated enough to kickstart their own possibly flacid writing schedule.

Being a critter is somewhat like having critters. One or two, or even three, fuzzies in the home are great. Four, five, six…and the list goes on…becomes overwhelming, taxing, and too much. And critting, much like critters, when maintained, can help lift a person’s mood and brighten their spirits; the infusion of different perspectives/visions/styles can make a writer step back and look more critically at their own work. It can also inspire friendly competition.

But one of the most important things I’ve learned about being a writer and critting other people’s work over the years is this:


2 thoughts on “Critter Alert”

  1. I recently asked someone to be a beta reader for me and he is brilliant. I am a little worried about style changes, but he has some of the most inspiring ideas.

  2. My betas are lovely to work with. I wish you all the best with yours as well! Yes, the style issue comes up sometimes but it's never been much of a problem for me and mine in the past. We can usually find some common ground. But everything they bring up absolutely opens my eyes to differences in style I hadn't considered before.


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