Attending the writer's group in Pratt, Kan., has proven useful as I get to critique other's writing, and in the process, get ideas about how I can improve my own.
Critiquing other's writing is a useful practice, because you learn what does and doesn't work for you as a reader. And while there will be times in which you may not be interested in a subject, you can still spot areas in which writers need to improve, then apply that to your own writing.
In the first draft of the book I wrote, I tossed out a whole bunch of ideas for plot points I wanted to cover and characters I wanted to introduce. I went through four drafts in which I revamped from telling to showing, breaking up long passages of inner dialogue and moving material from the first part of my trilogy to the second. A few things got cut, but much of it remained intact.
But as I talked to other writers and got their ideas, I reconsidered a few things and excluded some of them as I started my fifth draft. That's because I discovered that certain characters didn't really have much of a role, and a couple of plot points didn't really lead anywhere.
And some of my decisions came because I read another person's draft. I thought this person had an interesting concept and did a good job illustrating the main character's inner conflict, but he had certain plot points that didn't lead to anything and certain characters who carried little importance. I saw that he could cut down or eliminate certain things to improve the story's flow and pull readers deeper into the themes and what the main character faces.
I then asked myself, if I see things another writer can eliminate to improve a story, why couldn't I do the same with my story?
I'll admit when I first started writing my novel, I wasn't sure how many people I wanted to read my work. I imagine it's tempting for many writers to keep everything a secret, in hopes of surprising readers with a storyline and the twists the plot takes.
But had I not started sharing my writing, I wouldn't have learned what I could really do to draw a reader's attention. Nor would I have been given the chance to look at what other people have written and suggest what might work better. And that demonstrated that my critiques of other people's writing carries as much importance as having others critique mine.
Always remember that, when you talk about what you see in another writer's draft, that what you suggest can be just as useful to help you improve. The more we share critiques with one another, the better we all become as writers.