Things I’m learning from critiquing 1# : Always proofread!

Drawing of a comb

A fine tooth comb

Progress this month has not been good (an entire week lost to sickness and then some) but I’m still inching forwards. I have been really enjoying taking part in Critique Circle and reading other people’s writing is extremely helpful. You notice immediately the good and bad things and then can see them in your own work too. You can see that some of the “rules” (I hate rules) are there for a reason. You can see when a character rises up from a cliche and breathes real air.

However, one surefire issue to slay any piece of writing is when it is peppered with typos and spelling mistakes, wrong words and incorrect grammar. Not that I’m by any means an expert – my work is certainly strewn with blunders – but I mean the really screamingly obvious. This may well be because the writer just hasn’t proof read or used a fine enough tooth comb – perhaps they think they’re not ready for that yet – but actually it makes a huge difference to any reader, not just a professional editor or publishers. It’s really hard to read something with loads of little errors – you can’t help but focus on them, particularly because it’s much easier to crit small things than the big things that matter more like characterization, plot, setting, mood, does it grab you, if so why… If you send out an unchecked piece of writing, you’re giving any reviewer an escape route to avoid the tough stuff! It also does create an impression of someone less capable, less assured – when perhaps all it needed was a bit more polish before going out. Perhaps have some friendly eyes do your proof read as stage one, then send it out wider for a more meaningful critique?

This point is made by Emma Darwin in the middle of her excellent post “How do you decide when to share your draft?” and further nudges in the right direction are in C.S. Lakin’s “1o Risks you Run if you don’t Proofread“.