Dirty Little [Writing] Secrets: Lesson One: Providing Useful Critique (Content vs Craft)

...there lived a writer who didn't know how to write.

…there lived a writer who didn’t know how to write.

Dear Reader,

#4  Sometimes, as writers, it can be frustrating to like another writer’s work.   You read the first lines of a short story or a novel and you feel a sinking pit in your stomach as you realize you are reading pure literary gold.  It becomes impossible not to compare your own work to the loquacious mindgasm in your hands.  Your eyes can’t help slipping back over the perfect prose, time and again, while the old familiar question begins prowling about the back of your mind, scratching at the window of your thoughts, “Why does this work so well?!”

If the above is a common experience for you, welcome to the blog.  Stick around awhile, I think you’re gonna like what you read.

This is the first post in a series of posts on the writing process, specifically the feedback process.  I’d like to take just a sentence of two here, and tell you why you should care about the art of critique, even if you never want to read another author’s work in your life.  Put very simply, the skills you develop in helping other authors produce their masterpieces are the same skills you will draw upon in the creation and revision of your own.  You can’t help but look at your own writing with the same eyes you look at every other piece of writing.  Makes sense when you say it out loud right?

Learning to critique, and critique in a useful way, is actually the dirty little secret behind all great writing.  Look at Mark Twain.  How many of his essays are about ripping other writers a new one?  Do you think he did it for fun?  Nope.  Samuel Langhorn Clemens made himself into a genius simply by figuring out how the writing of other authors worked.  Wanna be just like him?

He looks so harmless and innocent...sweet old grandpa Clemens...

He looks so harmless and innocent…sweet old grandpa Clemens…

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