Friday, June 5, 2009

Reading My Own Work With Fresh Eyes

Over a year ago I started getting serious feedback about my writing. By this I mean I found other aspiring writers and we formed a group where we gave substantive, constructive, critical reviews of each other's work. Since then, much of my writing time has focused upon addressing the editing suggestions from the group.

Recently, I declared war upon certain words and sought to eliminate them, as much as possible, from my writing. I began with the chapters I had already edited based upon the group's feedback. This process improved chapters whose major issues I had already addressed.

In the last few days I expanded the war to chapters I wrote a long time ago and have yet to submit to the group for review. In particular, I had the opportunity to reread certain sections I felt proud of when I first wrote them. Sections I edited several times before the founding of the writers group, but have not looked at recently.

I discovered how serious feedback has helped me grow as a writer. The prose I once felt proud of I now see as amateur dreck. If I dared submit these chapters to the group they would savage them, with cause.

This isn't a case of a writer being harsh upon himself. Over the last year the group has helped me see a variety of problems with my writing. Problems such as the overuse of the passive voice, reliance upon adverbs and adjectives rather than dialogue and actions to describe character's emotions, run-on sentences, rambling paragraphs, info dumps, and so on.

I saw all of these problems and more in the my older, non-group edited works. It will take months, at least, to correct all the problems I found in a cursory review.

At first I shook my head and felt depressed at the magnitude of the task required to clean up these chapters. Then I started to feel better, pretty darn good actually. Why? Because I could see the problems now, whereas a year ago I couldn't. I would never write chapters with those problems now. Or at least, the problems would not exist to the same degree.

I have improved as a writer. I can now correct many of the issues with my writing myself. I still need the group to edit what I consider a final version, because there will still be problems I will not see. But because of their help I can find and fix many problems myself.

There are gifts you receive that you cannot repay. I count helping me become a better writer as such a gift. They only way I can repay it is to do my best to help the others improve their own works.


  1. I'm amazed at how much you've grown as a writer over the last year or so. We may have supplied some of the criticism that helped you get there, but you're the one who sat down and worked hard to get where you are now. I think you should be applauding yourself! :)

  2. Thank you, that means a lot coming from you. I owe much of my growth to you in particular. You have consistently given me the best, most detailed, most honest criticisms I have ever received. I spent years not improving as a writer because I couldn’t find the kind of feedback you give all the time. I wish I could be as helpful to you as you have been to me, but I am not the editor you are. If it means anything, I think you are a better writer than me. It has been an honor and a privilege working with you for these many months.

  3. Hey, I think we are all helpful in our own ways. Nicole has a great critical eye, and that no one can deny. Brant is good at making us all want to write more, and try to keep up with him. Lindy has enthusiasm and appreciation for literary content. And me? I supply food... sometimes, I guess.

  4. You are good critic, and I did not mean to imply that I value your input less than Nicole's. We each bring a different focus and a different level of detail to our reviews. You supply much more than food, you supply insight and opinions that help me and others improve as writers. I hope I do the same for you.