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Whether you are working on the first draft of your book, editing your short story, or experimenting with different forms of poetry, getting criticism from fellow writers (and readers) should be a regular part of your creative process. Let’s face it: anyone can put words on a page and call it a story, or divide those words up into stanzas and call it a poem. But successful authors know that constructive feedback from a freelance fiction editor, critique partner, or writers group is tantamount to perfecting the craft of writing.
There are many tools that writers who are serious about their craft can use to hone their skills. After struggling with the first draft of a piece, it is best to let it percolate for a while and come back to the page with a fresh eye. No one ever writes “The Road Not Taken” in one sitting. Once a writer has a piece he/she is fairly satisfied with, it’s time to send it out into the world for another opinion. Other eyes may see what you have missed, offer a different perspective, and question what you have taken for granted.
It is important that a writer does not exist in a vacuum. There are many quality writing workshops, continuing education courses, informal writing groups, and low-residency MFA programs that afford writers trustworthy outlets for critique.
While you may be tempted to have your mother, your significant other, or best friend read your work, they should not be your only editors. They are not trained to critique, may not understand your work, and may try to preserve your feelings, regardless of their true opinion.
Once you have received feedback from a source you trust, it’s back to revising again. Keep in mind you do not have to incorporate all suggestions that have been made. In fact, some writers revise TOO much. Look for the criticism you’ve received numerous times before changing the voice of your entire novel because one agent decided he or she might like it better if written in third person.
The object of critique is to force the writer to take an objective look at what has been written, evaluate its suitability, tighten the piece where needed, then let your words stand on their own. For more information about editing and critique, read How To Choose A Critique Partner For Your Writing, How To Choose A Freelance Editor For Your Writing, or Writers Groups.