Something I’ve noticed about the small crowd of writers that I’ve met, is that they hardly find time to read anything other than literature. What I mean is that the normal person will read that World of Warcraft book or that new space exploration book being made into a movie, but the person who considers himself a writer will only read the fields he concerns himself with. Like for instance it’s natural for a literature writer to only read literature, or for a science fiction writer to read mostly science fiction.
But the major downside to this is that they’re isolating themselves from learning to look at things a new way; this goes for everybody. If I had stuck to what I knew five years ago, I would only be reading books about WWII and video games but I branched out. I started to read literature, science fiction, and nonfiction, really anything I could find. And as a writer and as a person that made all the difference.
Now directly towards the writers. You can read as much as you want and from all different genres but you aren’t getting the most out of it. You have to consider that what you are reading is the final draft of a text that could have been edited for hundreds of hours. It was so meticulously created that it does help to study it, but you also need to study the raw form of the text as well.
The best way to do this is to find other people’s writing that are looking to be critiqued. There’s resources all over the internet of this, and even in the community with writing groups. What you find with critiquing writing is that you learn to look for inconsistencies and pieces of the text that just don’t work together. Then after learning this school it transfers over to editing your own writing and searching for the same things. In the beginning it’s easier to dissect another person’s writing and then use those skills on their own.
So you finally you find a piece that you’re ready to sit down and critique, what do you look for? There are a few features you need to look at when critiquing:
- Minor Mistakes. This is things like grammatical issues, spelling mistakes, maybe some formatting issues. Things that can be easily fixed.
- Fluency. Look for how well the text flows. Look for words that are out of place, choppy sentences, things that can be cut, superfluous sentences, things that could have been overlooked by the writer. This is mostly things concerning style. I’ve noticed this is what most writers look for when having a piece critiqued.
- Story. Find parts of the story that don’t work together, characters that aren’t believable, scenes that are a little too long or two short, things like that.
Usually when critiquing a piece of writing it’s courteous to offer a suggestion of how to fix it but of course it’s always the author’s decision what to do. You can already begin to see how scrutinizing someone’s writing for those criteria will help you do the same for your own.
There’s also two types of critiquing done. Line by Line, and just general. Line by line suggests that you will go line by line in the story and make a comment about each sentence, improvements that could be made, good and bad and all that. This takes much more time but is more thorough. The other is general, this focuses on the more big picture aspect of it. This is more quick and to the point but also loses a good amount of the small details that need fixing.
The last important detail about this art is to find pieces outside of your comfort area to read and experiment with. The point is to expand your range and to better understand how all types of writing work. A few good resources to critiquing is on Reddit and a few subreddits, which I always recommend, and finding groups on craigslist, newspapers, flyers or different places in the community for creative writing groups. If you’re out in the country it may be difficult but if you’re in a larger city there’s most likely one nearby. And it’s just good etiquette always critique someone else’s writing if you’re looking for a critique of your own.