Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Most Important Question a Writer Can Ask: Part 4

As we've been seeing, the most important question you can ask yourself as a writer is "why." We've addressed writer's block, help for tough sections and Q&A (see the posts below). Today, we look at dealing with the peer review, or critique, process.

As a reminder, three keys unlock the power of "why," as we'll see below.

How can asking "why" help when your critique group, mentor or inner critic recommends changes, maybe extensive changes? The criticism may be accurate. You may need to change a scene or delete it, but until you address the reason you wrote it as you did and not another way, don't let it go—yet.

First, review what you've written. Start by asking yourself why you wrote the scene this way and how the suggested changes, or your own observations, impact the story and characters. The power in the process is answering the questions in detail, in writing and honestly. Once you've done this, consider which changes are essential. Also consider how to make the changes and how extensive they should be.

Clearly, "why" is a breeder question. It yields other queries that must be answered honestly and in detail (and preferably in writing) to make the most of your work. When you start thinking you're going too far afield, you probably are, but one thing you'll find in this process—the power of why is a catalyst for improving your work. You'll recognize problems sooner, be better prepared to address underlying issues and be less afraid of the outcome—more on fear next time.

For more information, visit my online editing workshop, "Show and Tell: How to Know, How to Fix."

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