Critiquing Terrible Writing

One of the drawbacks of signing up as a designated critic for a writing service is that sometimes, and only sometimes, I see writing so terrible that I just don’t know what to say. The honest thing to advise would be, “wow, go back to high school,” but I obviously can’t do that.PAPER

The trick is to be diplomatic, sure, but I also want to be genuinely helpful to the writer if I can be. It’s easier to help good writers that might have a few missing elements, like an unclear setting, bad tone, a confusing POV. For the bad writer, the one that doesn’t know the difference between its and it’s, there, their, and they’re, it’s so much harder to navigate. Do I redline every grammar mistake and ruin their dreams?

There’s only so many times I can soften the blow by bracketing my corrections with phrases like, “this is just my opinion” or “this struck me as odd but maybe that’s just me.” Sometimes I’ve really seen no other option but to say things like, “you need to look at the rules for commas; here are several places where you make the same mistake.”

Some people just can’t wrap their head around expository writing, which is essential for speculative fiction. I can’t count how many times I’ve suggested, “show, don’t tell” after reading a story where I’m told exactly what to think and feel by the author, which inevitably means I end their tale experiencing absolutely nothing.

I think editing projects are essential to becoming a better writer, so I’m happy to continue doing this as long as I can. I also think I could never be a professional editor, because I have a feeling I’m not good at being entirely diplomatic when I see egregious mistakes.

4 thoughts on “Critiquing Terrible Writing

  1. I don’t know how you do it! I would not want to critique my current work! I have a ton of words such as ‘felt’ ‘feel’ ‘imagine’ ‘realised’ ‘wonder’ and ‘feeling’ to eliminate and change to show not tell. So much work to do…

    • First drafts are always like that- basically a cluster fu*k that should never see the light of day. 😉 A good editor can help you see your quirks. Like , “hey you use this adverb a lot- stop!” That’s at least a manageable problem!

  2. I think that truth is the key here; mistakes are mistakes, and must be highlighted as such. But yes, writing “go back to high school” in the margin would be a bit strong. Tempting though, eh?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s