Friday, May 05, 2006

Deodorant for Writing that Stinks

By Darvell Hunt

Your closest friends won’t tell you that you forgot to use your deodorant this morning; they also won’t tell you that your writing stinks, let alone tell you how to fix it. So what can you do to keep your readers from wrinkling their noses at your writing?

You have to find somebody who’s willing to rip your story to shreds.

I recently sent a short story of mine to a popular LDS writer for critiquing. The manuscript came back so marked up with a red pen that it looked like it was bleeding. Yet I was incredibly thankful.

She picked up things all throughout my story that needed attention. Just like the past two stories I had submitted to her, I expect this one will be much better once I have given her red comments the consideration they deserve. Much of what she said will prompt me to change something for the better. Other comments will be ignored because it’s my writing and I have the final say.

I recently read a blog post by this particular author about her red pen and I thought up this stupid pun:

A Red Pen Makes a Read Pen.

While I admit that this pun is a bit of a stretch, it’s still a valid truth. You need to have your work critiqued by an impartial evaluator—someone whose eyes aren’t tainted by your sense of pride in writing such an amazing story. If you seriously consider anything this person has to say about your story, your resulting work will improve and your readers will be waiting for more of the fruits or your pen.

The life of a writer can get lonely at times, since much of it is spent in solitary confinement in front of a computer screen—or if you’re old fashioned, a pen and a pad. If you expect to be a good writer, you have to allow somebody else into the picture—somebody with a good nose who’s willing to tell you that you stink. You also need to learn to ignore your pride a little and try to appreciate it when someone rips apart your beautiful writing.

Getting critiqued is kind of like getting a shot: yes, it’s a pain in the butt, but it’s for your own good.

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