Now and then, everyone needs a helper. With Christmas right around the corner, I thought I’d talk about how helpful elves can be. If Santa didn’t have his team of pixies working at the North Pole, it would be impossible for him to pull off the big toy drop every Christmas Eve.
As writers, we need helpers too. I’m referring to critique partners, or—to stay in the holiday mode—writer-elves. Ask any successful writer how s/he made it in the business, and I guarantee the author will list critique partners as a must have.
Critique partners are crucial. We get so lost in our stories we become blind to mistakes. Our manuscripts may be cluttered with over-used words or too many she’s in one paragraph. We may have accidentally changed the heroine’s eye color or have a character with flaky motivations. Critique partners find plot holes, weak conflicts, unlikable characters. They catch what we miss when we become too involved in our story.
Yet, we put off getting someone to critique our work. Why? Here are a few reasons I feel new writers use to prevent acquiring a writer-elf. Do any of these sound familiar?
What if I suck? So what? How do you expect to improve if you don’t give anyone a chance to tell you what you’re doing wrong?
S/he is a better writer than me. Great. A critique partner can help you develop your craft. The best way to be successful at something is to emulate someone who already is.
What if my story only makes sense to me? This is a good time to find out why and what you can do to the plot or the characters to make it make sense to your readers too.
I don’t want to bother anyone? Writers are usually strong-minded. If they don’t have time I’m pretty sure they will let you know.
When you do find the courage to get a critique partner, remember, writing is very subjective.
If your elf suggests you drop the first three chapters because the scenes are unnecessary and slow the story, you may want to listen. If s/he asks you to change your voice—you may want to get another opinion.
Don’t just get a critique partner, become a critique partner for someone. You may say Lori, I’m new to this. I’d be afraid to give someone advice. Not true. Do you read? If the answer is yes, which I’m sure it is, you can be a writer-elf.
I’m not really good at plot problems, but I’m great at detail. If your heroine is wearing tennis shoes in one paragraph and boots in the next scene without a wardrobe change, I’m going to catch it. If your hero is supposedly a motor-head but doesn’t know how to change the oil, I’ll catch that too. We all have something we can contribute.
It took a long time before I had enough confidence to let someone else take a look at my writing. What a waste of good critique opportunity. So take your tight-gripped, white-knuckled fingers off your manuscript and let a writer-elf take a look. It will do wonders for your craft.
Remember to Dream Big!