Writing Emotion, and Critique Groups

As persnickety as proper comma placement can be, writing realistic emotions can be even worse. As an autistic, what I think sounds like good emotion for my characters and what others see as good emotion can be two very different things. I’ve noticed many places in my writing where I’ve told the reader what the character is feeling rather than showing it. Many more places have been pointed out to me through critiques by fellow writers. I’m learning to recognize places where I could show emotion rather than telling, but it’s difficult to know exactly how to show it. That’s where the autism gets me. I don’t usually get a lot out of body language and subtle expressions, which makes writing realistic reactions difficult. Thanks to reading a ton of books and studying people in real life, TV shows, and movies, I’m getting better at it. But nothing can replace the impartial eyes of a critique for catching my errors.

I firmly believe every writer should join a writers group where they can receive honest feedback on what works and what doesn’t in their writing. It can be a group that meets in person or an online group. The point is sharing your writing with people who can help you make it even better. One very important thing to remember when giving critiques is to provide constructive criticism in a kind way. There’s nothing worse than receiving harsh comments and unkind words about the story you worked so hard on. Even stories that need a lot of work can be critiqued in a way that doesn’t destroy the dreams of the author. I’ve received critiques that hurt, but because the comments were made in a kind way, it left me hopeful that I could improve the chapter. It can be hard sometimes to accept even the kindest criticism of your writing. Just remember that a good critique group can help you grow as a writer in ways you never imagined possible. Giving critiques helps improve your own writing as well, because you learn what to look for and how to analyze a piece for clarity, proper word usage, and many other things.

Be open to suggestions for improving your writing. Not all suggestions in a given critique will fit your style, and it’s okay to not use all of them. The ones on proper grammar and punctuation should be used, however. We want our writing to follow the rules of the English language. I know some people advocate breaking the rules you feel stifle creativity, but I have a different view. Once you know the rules (and can use them properly), then it’s okay to break or better yet bend one very rarely in a book. Too many broken rules leads to an indecipherable mess that might not even fit the definition of experimental writing. Having your work critiqued is an excellent way to make sure someone other than you knows what you meant your story to say. And sometimes it takes a little rewriting (or maybe two or three rewrites) to make things clear. I’ve run into that often enough with my own writing, and I can’t thank my fellow critiquers enough for their help.

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