This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
by Anna Bell
My step dad recently sent me the opening section to a novel he'd written and asked me to critique it. I was a bit scared to look at it, wondering if I was ‘qualified’ or experienced enough to do it. But then it hit me: I critique my own work every day! It got me thinking, too. As authors, do we often inadvertently wear an editor’s hat?
I’ve been resting my novel for the last six weeks whilst I’ve been focusing on the new baby, so when I read it this week it felt like I was reading it with fresh eyes. When I've had that much of a break from my WIP I like to read it all through first before getting stuck in with tinkering or editing. It's then that I put on an editor's hat, as I try and look at the writing in terms of choice of words, pace, plot and characterisation. I think about the big picture before I start to go through it with a fine tooth comb. Acting like an editor, rather than an author, is a bit weird as it’s about identifying what needs fixing, rather than fixing it then and there (that comes later when you go into author mode). This kind of analysis helps me to focus when I start working on the edit.
But it’s not only my work that I look at with editor’s eyes. I've talked at length before about how, as an author, you can never truly switch off when you're reading a novel. I'm pretty much always studying how the writer writes and trying to learn lessons from what I think does and doesn’t work.
I started a book this week, which I've been so excited about reading for ages as the plot sounded great. Yet, whilst the story unfolding is interesting, the writing is pretty bad.
The dialogue is clunky, the characters are annoying and the author is prone to changing perspectives – my pet hate. And when I say change perspectives, I mean I’ll be halfway through a sentence or paragraph before I realise it has switched perspective – talk about confusing! Instead of reading the book as a reader, I've been reading it as an editor and contemplating how I'd sort the novel out. I am almost mentally adding notes in the margins with my comments.
Going back to my step dad's introduction, and my qualifications, I've got to realise I critique everything I read, whether I’ve written it or not. I know I don't read fantasy (the genre of my step dad’s book), but I can still look at the big picture and give my reactions to it. It will be a bit scary giving him my thoughts as usually I’m the only one who hears my editing monologue, but, in the same way I trust my editing skills with my own work, I should trust my views when it comes to someone else’s work.
What do you think? Do you feel like you often wear an editor’s hat? Do you think critiquing other's novels helps you to become a better writer?