Friday, July 3, 2009

Weakness into Strength

Good news, folks. I now consistently recognize passive voice in other people's writing. This is a great sign--one day soon I'll be able to pick it out of my own sentences. I cannot express how helpful it is to have a crit group to learn from. When I started critiquing, often I knew something was wrong or off, but couldn't put my finger on it. I was clueless unless they were mixing point of view or verb tenses.

How have I reached these *dizzying* heights of editing? Practice and effort.

First I remember that other writers are just as invested in their work as I am in mine. I love what I've written. Every misplaced comma and dangling participle and mixed metaphor.

How can I love this ugly baby? It's kind of misshapen, and I dropped it on its head a few times, but I don't see that. I see what it is becoming. I see it the same way my little girl fixing her hair reveals her to me in the distant future getting ready for her first date. She's six, so I imagine her in pigtails, but whatever she does with her hair, I KNOW she'll be gorgeous. Everybody loves their baby, and I try to show respect for other people's ideas and creation.

Everyone has strengths. When someone reviews my work, I try to listen first. I've been told I use passive voice too much, that I've too much description, that this phrase is awkward, this is funny, but slows things down. This is funny, but makes the characters seem too adolescent.

Those comments usually confirm a thought so fleeting that I lost it. Anything that I already kindof wondered about, I nod my head to and start typing.

Some times a reader will miss details- like when Lara fell, and a reviewer asked me a few paragraphs later how she ended up on the floor. Even if the words are there, the comment alerts me that there may be a problem. I might need to start with a new paragraph so that the fall is not lost. I may need Lara to say, "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up." Even if I don't change anything, it's good to take a closer look, because what confuses one person will likely confuse others, too.

When I review another person's post, I go slow and note anything that pulls me out of the story. I usually read the submission two or three times, and then I reread my review to make sure it's clearly worded. Then I post it.

THEN I learn. I read the other reviews on that submission. This is the best thing I've done. It helps me to name those niggling issues that I recognized but couldn't verbalize. It has taught me things I didn't know that I didn't know.

A few reviewers have been so thorough and right-on that I have reviewed their work, just so they'd return the crit. My crit group has personal info, and if I need someone who has law enforcement experience, I look for someone with that background. When I wanted some guys to read the chapter I'd written from a man's POV, I reviewed some posts by men. I got the crits from men that I wanted.

I try to email everyone who reviews my submissions to say thanks. Sometimes I ask for clarification, or explain something they commented on, but mostly I email because when I started thank you emails, it helped me see the workshop as a friendly place where people are trying to help each other. This has led to some repeat reviewers, and a few wonderful, amazing, faithful crit partners, whom I wouldn't trade for gold statue replicas of themselves...You get it, right? A good crit partenr is worth their weight in gold.

Thanks to Teresa, Aleta, and Kristen!

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