Block by Block

Writers and their blocks, I tell ya’. Seems as soon as we’ve broken through the writer’s block and put plenty of words to the page, it’s time for the chopping block where we cut ‘em all out again. The only thing harder than writing is editing.

Personally, I kind of like the rewriting, most of the time it’s easier to fix something than to finish it. But there’s a lot I don’t know, grammar and punctuation, formatting and such, and those things have to be addressed. Story edits are part of the process, too, and the changes are not always obvious to us. That’s where it gets really difficult. Other people read your stuff and suddenly it’s not just your manuscript on the chopping block, but also your head and heart.

That may sound melodramatic.
Unless you’ve experienced it, then it’s a tad understated.

It’s really hard to put your stuff out there, to open yourself up to criticism. And let me be clear, that’s what you’re doing. You don’t share your work for skirt-blowing. Compliments are awesome, but they don’t make you a better writer.

Constructive Criticism, an important term for BOTH parties to take seriously, lends itself to improvement. You need another pair of eyes to tell you what’s NOT on the page.
We wrote it, we know what it says!
Sometimes what it says is that you’re all up in your head and not grounded on the paper.


I’ve been around this block, participated in many critique groups on several levels. I’ve attended classes and sessions, I’ve even been part of a panel that led a critique workshop.
I may know the ins and outs and how-to-do-its and receive-its and yada yada yada, but when it’s your pages, emotions lead and logic gets stuck in traffic on the Jersey bridge.


My Stages of Receiving Critique include:

First– Rejection of change. The initial response to all that red ink is visceral. A punch to the gut, a rise in the bile, a creeping flush. Who do these readers think they are?! Pffft. That’s perfect! Uh, hello, weren’t you paying attention to the words on the page?

Second – Acceptance of potential change. The nerves calm, the stomach settles, and the flush wanes. Okay, well maybe… and I see what they mean and yes, I suppose I could clarify and cut this and define that with more detail. It’s still MY story, but I get how it might be confusing and I didn’t realize I’d used the same word 83 times (“okay,” perhaps you’ve noticed?). And OMG, how did I miss that typo? Misspell that word? Mess up the name of that state? (Talk about directionally challenged!)

Third – Development of change. These are the building blocks of progress. Improvement on some level is always the end result. Even if you disregard the suggestions, you are more familiar with your work now. This experience has influenced you. You’ve seen it through someone else’s eyes, read it through someone else’s mind. You have a better understanding of your strengths and deficits and most importantly of your story.


Editing is a procedure that runs much deeper than red ink. But you can do it! I can do it! Chop! Chop! The pain is part of the process and in the end, we’ll be glad we did it.
Well, this end until the next end. How many blocks does it take…

About Mary Fran Says

I am an artist, crafter, designer and writer. I enjoy working with mixed media-- applying visual and tactile manipulations to telling a story. Not a lot of market for that, though, :), so I'm focusing on short story submissions and novel completions. Yes, plural. Lots of beginnings, too many ideas, not enough focus.
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Block by Block

  1. Kristin says:

    Your Stages of Receiving Critique are great! Next to pitching, getting critiques is the most nerve racking thing a writer goes through. I’m waiting to hear back from my editor and every day that passes, I get more nervous. The manuscript’s perfect–what’s taking so long? LOL

  2. Pingback: Gee, I guess I should thank you! | Mary Lamphere

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s