problems easier when the story isn't our own.
But what happens when you don't have a critique partner?
You learn to be your own best critique-er.
All of us has one of two or ten people who will read bits and pieces of our work. Very few of us actually have someone who has stuck with us through the thick and thin of editing an entire novel. While currently editing my most recent story I found myself doing one of two things quite a bit: one, I was making comment bubbles to myself to come back to later. (comment bubbles are GENIUS! The person who invented those deserves a plate of cookies.)
Second, I started paying attention to what I was writing in these comments and I found I was talking to myself much as I would talk to a critique partner. We all leave these kind of comments: fix this. Blak! What where you thinking??? Rewrite this.
And while there is nothing wrong with those kind of comments, but they are too generic. They don't tell you anything and if you're anything like any other writer out there, when you come back through your manuscript looking for those comments, you'll go "what did I mean there??".
Instead, be specific. For example: the character's motivation is weak here. Maybe make this scene come later or cut completely since there is an emotional follow up in the following scene? Consider adding more action, maybe the car blows up. Hmm.
Talk to yourself in the comment bubbles. Much as you would give suggestions to a critique partner, extend the same courtesy to yourself. I have often "blind brainstormed" with those I've critiqued. While any suggestions I give them might not work out for the story, I share them anyway, just as I would if we were brainstorming in person. What I might share combined might be a good idea or better yet, spark an idea that could really help their story.
Do the same for your own story. Because I know the ending, I know where I want to take the story and also have ideas for threads I want to weave in and some I want to cut, I'm better equipped to leave ideas in bread crumb bites behind. If you're like me and like to fast-draft your edits, this method can work great when you're not wanting to sit and write out a new scene or completely rewrite it. Save those scene ideas for when you're in a "writing/creative" mood.
Be your own best critique partner.
If you have one or even if you don't, take the time to leave those notes to yourself. Chances are, you aren't going to remember everything you want to do or even if you keep a notebook of ideas remembering where you actually wanted to make these changes could prove...interesting. ;-) The comment bubbles allow them to be right there in the midst of the story. Better yet, you can jump from bubble to bubble in Word if you're looking for one specific comment.
Not having a critique partner doesn't have to be all bad. Be willing to be tough on yourself and snip and cut, brainstorming ways to make it better. Find some occasional readers to offer valuable feedback, pray for a craft partner, but then keep pressing forward.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a 5 page critique I'd be happy to share with one of you. I'll draw the winner next week and have Pepper announce it in the weekend edition. :-)
Share your best editing tips!
Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people.