Writing is an ever-evolving skill, and there’s always room for improvement. But while you may sense your short story, essay, or poem needs something, you may have trouble pinpointing exactly what it is you need to fix. That’s when it pays to have another set of eyes reviewing your work. At Writer’s Relief, we know a good critique can take your writing from mediocre to marvelous! Even the most accomplished authors can utilize worthwhile input to enrich their writing. Here are three critiques that improve your writing every time.
Critiques That Will Improve Your Writing
Critique #1: Vary sentence structure and vocabulary
Review your sentence structure and word choice. Variety will help keep your audience interested. Read through your sentences and make sure they are diverse but still cohesive. Using active voice forces you to be more creative. And, while many people will tell you to avoid passive voice, don’t be afraid to use it if it serves the work.
Minimize the number of sentences that are parallel in structure or length (unless it’s on purpose, of course). Consider alternating long and short sentences, as well as avoiding over-repetition. For example, don’t put sentences back-to-back that start with “he said” or “she said.” It can get a little mind-numbing, so keep your readers on their toes and switch it up when you can.
Also, be sure to use a vivid variety of words. Using the same words over and over or a lot of simple descriptions can cause your readers to lose interest. Keep their imagination active with vibrant descriptors and verbs.
#2: Use more concrete imagery
Concrete imagery will help keep your audience engaged by drawing them into your narrative. Involve all five senses in your writing and be creative in how you use taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. Ground your setting and scenes by going beyond describing what you see.
Don’t forget to use your imagery with intention! You are the director of your own narrative, so be sure every description lends to the purpose you want your setting to serve. Describing the smell of baking cookies can help your reader feel present in the story, but including memories of baking with a late relative can make your imagery more impactful.
Consider using metaphors and analogies: A good comparison can go a long way in helping your reader understand a description or idea. Using the right words can also make it more memorable for your audience.
#3: Avoid clichés
When amping up your vocabulary or stringing together metaphors, be sure you’re creative and unique. Falling into clichés can be dangerous, as overused phrases can make your writing blend in to every other poem or prose piece that has used the same wording. You want your writing to stand out, so don’t be afraid to create your own analogy or mix up some old phrases.
The same can be said of using tropes in your writing. Using a trope is a double-edged sword: On the one hand, your readers know exactly what to expect—on the other hand, your readers know exactly what to expect. For certain genres, using a trope is a smart choice, because readers look forward to it. But if you want your writing to stand out, find a way to turn the trope on its head into something familiar but also new. If you’re writing a Christmas romance, instead of the typical snowy small town, maybe your story’s characters are celebrating Christmas on a Caribbean island. Or, instead of the ace detective solving the murder, an ordinary citizen discovers the killer’s identity. Using clichés and tropes can be a great tactic, but make sure you’re using them in a way that benefits your writing.
These three simple critiques will help you kick your writing to the next level so it appeals to more readers and editors. Once you’ve polished your poetry, short story, or essay, Writer’s Relief can help you target the best markets for your work and boost your odds of getting published! Learn more about our services and submit your writing sample to our Review Board today!
Question: What other critiques have you found helpful for improving your writing?