Friday, December 11, 2009

How do you view your work?

Do you view your writing the same way you look at your critique partner's writing? Are you unbiased when reviewing your manuscript? This is something writers need to learn. We can't disconnect completely from our work, but we need to put some distance between us and our words. If we don't, we won't be able to see everything clearly. We won't be able to cut words, we won't hear the things we need to hear about our stories, because we'll think our book is the best it can be. We'll know that NOTHING needs changing. And most writers understand that their books can be made better.

From that first draft all the way to the final edits we cut, prune, add, take away, all to make our book the best it can be. If we fall in love with our first draft and think it couldn't be any better we are doing ourselves an injustice.

I remember when I first started writing. My first picture book wasn't awful, but it wasn't brilliant either. But I thought it was. To me that book was just the most marvelous book that had ever been written. YIKES! Did I have some things to learn. But I hadn't yet learned to distance myself. Now I know to look at my story through my readers eyes. Read it like they will. Now I can see the words that need to be cut and the scenes that need to be energized. How about you? :)

36 comments:

  1. Distance from our writing is, in my opinion, the key to success. After every draft phase, I always set the writing aside for at least two weeks, if not longer, to provide the necessary distance so I can go back in to polish things up with fresh eyes and perspective.

    Your post is, spot on (sorry, I've been going all British lately - I think it's from listening to BBC Radio and watching BBC America - pretty soon I'll be serving tea and crumptets)! We have to look at our work as if it is someone else's work and we're doing our fabulous critiquing thingy!

    S

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  2. No tea here. Have to have COFFEE. But the crumpets sound yummy. And so my British pal *grin* We do HAVE to see our work as if it belonged to someone else. Which is so hard. :)I read it and say, "Robyn, you have written gold here, my lady." On a first draft, no less. Sheesh.

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  3. I'm a coffee drinker too, my friend, but do like a spot of tea late in the afternoon, either mandarin orange or lemon zinger. Hope things go well at the doctor with Christopher. Ya know I'm thinking about you and sending positive thoughts your way.

    S

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  4. Ah yes, I am usually pretty good about looking at my work with an objective eye. Sometimes, though, I go a little too crazy and cut stuff I shouldn't have.

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  5. I try to get all distant, but it's still impossible not to remember what I was trying to accomplish with this phrase or that scene. I'm getting better everyday at picking out mistakes and seeing the lines more objectively. But there are still things I will never catch that another reader will instantly.

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  6. Scott, Mmmm, lemon zinger. YEAH! And thank you, about Christopher. I DO know you are thinking of us. *grin*

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  7. Kristi, I am JUST now getting to where I can view my work impartially. And only sometimes. I wish I could have amnesia just for those times when I am reading my own stuff. The things I could accomplish. Maybe I could pretend I have amnesia. :)

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  8. Linda, isn't it hard? I mean, we put our heart and soul into our writing only to have it RIPPED to shreds by our crit buddies. Which is what we want, but...

    And to lool at it as they do. It's just HARD! :)

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  9. It took some time, but yes, I look at my work with a critical eye now. I have to remind myself of this all the time, though.

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  10. Okay! I'm with Christopher at the doctor today. I actually meant look not lool. lool is just SO not a word. :)

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  11. Susan, I wish it would get easier to do. I'm guessing even JK has a problem with this? :)

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  12. Great question. I think I struggle to be both as harsh AND as kind as my crit partners. The self-doubt can make me edit some parts to oblivion that were actually FINE, while missing dumb things like wordy constructions.

    Time and distance are key, I think. Setting the mss. aside for a while and coming back to it helps tremendously 9 times out of 10.

    p.s. I have a gift for you over at my blog.

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  13. I'm a balanced critiquer when it comes to my crit partners, but I'm very harsh on my own work. Trying to learn that the quest for perfectionism stifles creativity!


    (Five unique prizes from South Africa up for grabs in my blog's Christmas Contest)

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  14. Finding that place of objectivity is a challenge. I think I am still learning. But it definitely helps to receive constructive criticism and yourself be open to it. All of our work needs some fine tuning and I know I definitely want my best words on display when my book is complete.

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  15. That's so true, but so hard. I just finished rewrites on a book. I hadn't read the book in months (since June). So I definitely had the distance. But it was still hard for me to view it objectively. I think that's why it's still so essential to have an editor or crit partner to act as our counselor. Often it takes that objective view to see to the heart of our issues! (My husband is a counselor/therapist so I couldn't resist throwing in the counselor analogy!)

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  16. Years in a good crit/writing group get you to the point of almost being able to hear members' voices in your head when you review your work. :)

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  17. Good post. I think we always need to be reminded to think like this. I encourage my writing students to consider the reader when writing. This has helped me (and hopefully, them!) see our work from another angle. Ah, there's always something to learn! :)

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  18. laurel, I have to come back and revise at least ten times. I wanna get it right the first time. Loved my surprise. Thank you so much. :)

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  19. Ann, I want to be more harsh with my work. I think it would truly benefit me. :) Now how do I go about that? :)

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  20. Cindy, I love the criticism that my crit partner gives me. And it is hard to view our own work like that. But when I get to that point, I'll be happy. :)

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  21. Jody, love your counselor analogy. So fitting for me on this day. :) But I really want to view my work impartially. But will I ever? :)

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  22. Angie, years in a good crit group? I'm waiting...:)

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  23. Karen, there is ALWAYS something to learn. Awww, I'd hoped to learn it all by spring. :) Seriously, at least by fall. :)

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  24. I'm so prejudiced biased toward my babies that I employ TWO critique groups to chip away at my stubbornness.

    For me, crit partners are the way to go. It's much better to hear it from them than the editors.

    Patti

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  25. Yes, it took me some time to do this, and I'm still learning how to do it better. Making rewrite/revision lists of things to look for helps me, and just knowing that I need to mess my book up in order to make it better, that helps too. Since I don't have a stable group of crit. partners I think I've learned to rely on myself more, which is good, but can be painfully slow at times. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

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  26. I can cut like crazy, especially when I get some good distance from the wip. What's nice about working on a variety of books is this is more and more possible.

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  27. Great post - this is right where my mindset has been. Thanks! ;)

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  28. Patti, Yes crit partners are a MUST. But with even the most wonderful crit partners this is STILL something we must learn to do. To look at our words with indifferent eyes. :)

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  29. Paul, it is so HARD, isn't it? And very, very slow. But well worth it in the end. :)

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  30. PJ, yes I want to get to where I have a lot of different WIP's at different stages for just that very reason. Well, other reasons too. But that way you always have something to do. :)

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  31. Shannon, and where my mindset has been too. Great minds...:)

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  32. Thanks so much for following me back. We need more picture book writers in our circle to find each other! ;-)

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  33. Shannon, agreed! I was beginning to think I would always be the only one. Well, there is one more. Crystal. :)

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  34. Making the mistake to look with a critical eye at my work was the first of many bumps along the road. I'm still learning to be open to changing and cutting things that I have fallen in love with.

    It's hard business.

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