Wednesday, March 12, 2008

MARCH WRITING TIP # 2 (something to do with red ink)

When I was in 7th grade my teacher returned one of my written book reports with a big red A at the top. She also wrote, "You are a really good writer."

I've been a fan of red ink ever since!

But when red ink is used to write X marks, corrections, or suggestions for improvement we have a different reaction, don't we? After all, who likes criticism?

Me, me. I love criticism!

Okay, honestly, I don't. But still, I never send a manuscript to my editor without showing it to other people first. Some are real experts on a specific topic, others are writers, and some are just ordinary everyday readers. I ask all of them for criticism. I give them the freedom to scribble on my pages, write me emails with their suggestions, or just to tell me in person.

Getting feedback like this helps me figure out what parts of my story aren't working. Something that is perfectly clear to me might be confusing to a reader. One of my experts might tell me that I don't have my facts straight.

And how do I handle this criticism? Truthfully, my first reaction is often to get defensive. I want to argue, to explain myself, or just ignore what they have to say. But I know better. By now I've learned that there is usually some truth in the critiques I get. So I pay attention. I don't always accept every suggestion. But I try to figure out which advice will really help me.

And you know what happens next, don't you? Of course, I get out my eraser (March Writing Tip # 1). I make changes. And my writing improves. Suddenly I have a much better chance of getting a big red A at the top of my paper.

So, if you have a red pen, give it to someone you trust. Hand them your writing project. Tell them to critique you. (Gently, of course. Remind them that critiques should always include some positive comments.) And when you get their feedback, don't argue. Be fearless. Use your eraser. Rewrite.

You won't regret it.


  1. Something inside tells me this is excellent advice!

    Keep the tips coming.

  2. It is excellent advice! But I have to tell you, Joyce, I just could never cotton to a red pen. As a teacher, I always used purple or green or even pink. Red just has such a stigma!

    So, I have my eraser and my green I just need a new manuscript!

  3. Yes, Mary Ann, I understand about the stigma of red ink. In my case it has pleasant connotations. But it was considerate of you to use fun colors for your students!

    What about that new manuscript? Is the latest research turning itself into a plot?

  4. It's getting closer all the time! Thanks for asking :)

    I know who is going to narrate it, now...he he he!