Writing is a strange craft. I've probably seen hundreds of amateur paintings as well as masterpieces. I've certainly listened to beginning trombonists learn their scales (it's memorable, I promise). I've seen pick-up games of basketball. But...how many amateur novels does the average person read?
With so many other endeavors, we're used to seeing the steps. We know that today's awkward fencer, given dedication and practice, can hone those skills to become an olympic medalist. With novels, we only get the final product, shining in glorious hard cover at the bookstore.
I've met writers who compare their writing to their favorite author and weep. In some ways, this seems comparable to a second-year cellist sighing that he's not Yo-Yo Ma and never will be. But who would expect a student to sound like that? Yo-Yo Ma's been practicing cello for over fifty years.
Critiquing can help fill in those gaps we never see, throwing out the strange -- but somehow far-reaching -- notion that "real" writers pour genius onto the page the first time they try. All those shiny hardcovers started as someone's first draft. Even the books I adore were frowned over, revised, and reworked until they became sheer awesomeness.
A while back, the Writing Excuses podcast took apart the opening to Brandon Sanderson's very first, unpublished novel. It sounds like...well, an unpublished novel. Somewhere between this and Elantris, Brandon poured in a lot of hard work into the craft of writing. Maybe someone will find that daunting; I find it inspiring and reassuring. If there's anything I'm good at, it's lots of hard work.
So, Critiquing Secret #1: Critiquing shows us that writing is a process.
Critiquing is something I love and something I feel I can say something about, so I'm staring a series of posts about it, updating on Wednesday evenings.