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After writing the first couple drafts, every writer eventually comes to conclude that they can no longer edit their work effectively. For new writers, this often is interpreted as my WIP is finished, but more experienced writers know better.
When you reach this point, it isn't because you've done everything possible to make your book as good as it can be. No, more times than not, this point is reached when you've been working on your WIP for too long—when you know the story, the characters, the words far too well to make any substantial edits.
Just to clarify, this happens to every writer. Reaching this point doesn't mean you're a bad writer or need more experience or anything to that effect—it just means you've been working hard on your project and you need a break. You need to find some beta readers and critique partners.
Writers, especially new writers, often like to skip this step for various reasons, but if you truly want to make your book as good as possible, if you really want your WIP to reach its potential, you need to find some good critique partners.
As the creators of our story, we can only see so much—we're too close to the WIP to recognize plot holes that an outside reader will see instantly; we've been over the words too many times to recognize the weaknesses that permeate our writing. It invariably happens to every writer—even the professionals use insight from outside eyes to improve their WIPs, because for writers, critique partners are not optional. Not if you want to make your book as good as it can be, at least.
A good critique partner will take a chapter you thought was fully polished and hand it back to you with enough red ink to set the bulls running.
A good critique partner will gently point out the weaknesses in your writing, so that you can be aware of them moving forward and work to improve.
A good critique partner will show you the worst of your manuscript, but they'll also show you the potential behind your story, the life sitting just beneath the surface that with a little work you can release onto the page.
I won't pretend that critiques are easy—they can often be emotionally and mentally exhausting, and many times will make you want to crawl under a rock with your inadequate manuscript held tightly against your chest. But good critique partners will set you on the right path to improve your story, and with enough hard work on your part and insight on theirs, your WIP will be ready for the big leagues.
So get out there and find some critique partners. You'll be glad you did when you have a new and improved manuscript on your hands.
Do you use critique partners and/or beta readers? Why or why not? If so, have they been helpful to you?