Finding Flaws In Your Writing

It's okay for it to look like this. JG Ballard Manuscript

As any writer will say, discovering flaws in their writing is a moment of horror and/or happiness. Odd combination of feelings, but I’ve felt them both at the same time. On one hand, “How could I have let this be seen?” and on the other, “Thank goodness I found something I can fix!”

I know there are tons of blog posts about this topic, but I figure if I never say anything I won’t be heard. So here are the ways I find flaws in my work.

  1. Leave the work alone. If you’ve just written it, take a day or two off. For me, I need at least a week if not more.
  2. Read the work aloud. If you don’t wanna sound crazy to the people living with you, use text-to-speech and listen on head phones. Errors pop out like crazy.
  3. Make a graph illustrating the highs and lows of the conflict. Draw the Fryetag’s triangle. Don’t worry if it looks like a hill. This means add conflict and/or take out scenes that don’t add anything to the story.
  4. Circle every verb choice in the part you have having trouble with. It’s a sucky task, so if you have a child learning verbs, you can get double-duty and have them find some for you. Once you’ve found all the verbs, look to see if they are active, powerful verbs. I’ve found some in my own work. For example, “he moved quickly” can be “he ran.” It’s shorter and stronger. If your verbs have adverbs helping them out, look for another way to say the same thing.
  5. Try the above with nouns. “A tall, big tree” could be anything, so maybe, “a redwood.” Specifics are good!

These are some of the tricks I do if I can’t have another pair of eyes look it over. Consider meetup.com to find critique groups in your area. I’ve found that people at the critique groups I attend catch a lot of different errors and have questions I don’t address in text.

Also, when you’re self-editing, make a list of common errors (other than grammar/punctuation). I know that in my first drafts I have a huge problem where the reader feels very distant from the characters and actions taking place. I know that’s how I write. When I edit, I make adjustments to close the distance up. When you know those types of flaws and can ‘fix’ them, you are on your way to being able to edit your work in cleaner, stronger ways.

If this helped, please comment/like/share!

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