Humans are social creatures, and writers are no exception. At some time or another, every writer has experienced the desire to share their work with a reader, to receive praise for their hard-earned manuscript or gain some insight into a scene or passage that feels wrong. A thoughtful critique can help an author bridge the gap from a mediocre work to a scintillating one.
And this is fantastic if you’re the one receiving the critiques. But how does critiquing other authors help you grow as a writer?
1.) Exposure to new voices
It’s easy to get caught in a literary rut when your only reading materials are a handful of your favorite authors and your own WIP. Lack of diversity can lead to stagnation whereas interacting with different perspectives can boost your creativity and ability to problem solve.
The mere act of reading another person’s writing can help you improve your own.
2.) Discover what isn’t working
Writers are human beings, and humans make a ton of errors. Big mistakes, tiny mistakes, and everything in-between. We’re so talented at messing up that sometimes we create the same problem in slightly different ways. Keeping an eye out for what isn’t working in someone else’s manuscript can give you an idea for something to avoid in your own writing.
3.) Reacquainted with old ideas
As I’ll discuss in another post, there are many layers to a good critique. Constructive critiques don’t simply focus on flaws, but they highlight features, as well. You may stumble across an old word you once loved. (Be sure not to overuse it, okay?) Perhaps the writer introduces a pacing mechanism or handles a descriptive element with such fluid grace that it serves as a reminder of why we write in the first place. But beautiful moments in writing don’t simply let us fall in love with writing again. They place vital tools back into our toolbox, tips and tricks that had somehow fallen into the cracks of memory are brought back into the fore.
If you take the time to analyze someone’s work and provide them with meaningful feedback, they are much more likely to do the same for you when the need arises.
If you don’t have a writing group, sites like Scribophile can help you safely match up with other writers to practice your critique-giving skills. Scribophile has a particularly nice feature where writers can rate the critiques they receive, too. Not sure how to write a thorough critique? Stay tuned for my next post.
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