8. Get Critiques

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Remember when I said Good and Bad are irrelevant where a first draft is concerned? That's because you can reasonably assume that all first drafts need work. Let me repeat this because it's something a lot of beginning writers don't realize:

ALL FIRST DRAFTS WILL NEED REVISIONS.

I love first drafts. They're magical to me. It's a transcript of a string of intangible images from my head, translated into physical form. But it's an imperfect translation. Ever copy and paste a foreign language into an online translator and then stare at the grammatically disastrous results? It's kind of like that. The first pass is to get it all down into words. The next step is to figure out how to improve it.

Unfortunately, I'm the worst person to figure out what to improve because I'm the one who wrote it. Everything made perfect sense when I first wrote it. And it's not just me. All of us develop blinders when it comes to our own work. We need objective critiques from someone else, and not just anyone either. We need to find people who get us. This is harder than it sounds.

Think about all the dates you've been on (and if you haven't, don't feel bad. I didn't go on my first date until halfway through college.). Trying to find a critique partner is a lot like that. The person needs to like the genre you write it in. Needs to like your writing style. Needs to be experienced enough to see areas of improvement. Needs to be eloquent enough to phrase the suggestions in a manner that is constructive and makes sense to you.

I have a friend who is my biggest cheerleader and supporter. Everything I show her, she likes. She likes my style, my stories, and me. But she rarely has suggestions for improvement. She's not a writer, or even an avid fiction reader. When I exchange manuscripts with other actual writers, I get back feedback that opens my eyes to things I hadn't realized. When I mention these suggestions to my friend, she'll be all, "Huh, that's true. I hadn't thought about that."

If you're not sure where to start, try going to the Wattpad Community forums (www.WattpadWriters.com), now accessible on a mobile browser (not the app). In particular, check out the Improve Your Writing club where you can post specific questions and excerpts for evaluation. There's also the Story Services section where you'll find links to beta readers, critique partners, writing buddies, and more. If you're a serious writer, you need beta readers at the very least. They'll spot the plot holes and ask questions about things that don't make sense. They'll also point out when characters are acting out of character, or if something seems hard to believe. Beta readers are valuable. Find some!

An excellent resource I use for my short stories is Critique Circle (http://critiquecircle.com/). You earn points by critiquing other writers' work, and then you can spend points to post your own work for feedback. It's a great system, and most of the feedback you get is tactful, useful, and timely.

When you do get feedback, be selective in your implementation. Remember that most of these people you trade with aren't professional writers. They are merely sharing their thoughts, and a lot of it is opinion. This means the feedback is subjective, and not necessarily truth. In the end, you need to decide if the suggestion will make your story stronger or not. Don't let your story get away from you. Don't implement every single suggestion given to you, or you risk the story belonging to someone else. Choose the ones that make sense and feel right to you.

If you remain true to yourself, your work will fulfill you. Your story will improve and grow. Eventually an audience will find you who vibe with your work. These are your readers. These are the people you want. Not everyone. These people.

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Ironically this is my first draft, haha! The beta readers I have are for my fiction. So if you have any feedback you'd like to share, or suggestions for revisions or additional parts, I'm totally open to it. I always want to keep improving. And if you've enjoyed this, I'd appreciate a vote. Thank you!


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