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Being a part of a writing group is very insightful. One of the things it has taught me is that a writer can only be objective about other people’s writing.

That’s not to say it won’t make a person more critical of their own writing, but I’m going to be honest with you, it won’t be enough.

No one is quite as objective towards something as someone who has nothing invested in what they’re doing. After spending hours upon hours of figuring out your characters and your stories, and then hours upon hours of writing them and putting the story together the way you want it, there’s going to be a ceiling of objectivity for you.

This is absolutely fine. You shouldn’t be objective about your writing. It’s your baby. It’s a piece of you. At the end of the day we write because we have something to say. Let’s face it there are easier ways to get fame and money. So the fact that you can’t see that crazy Uncle Karl character is too clichéd and cluttering the scenes is to be expected.

What you have to do is stay objective about the process of writing. When you give your story to someone else and they tell you that crazy Uncle Karl is clichéd and clutters the scenes he’s in you have to be able to hear that critique, go back, and look at Uncle Karl with the eyes of your reader. Maybe the fix is as simple as just having Uncle Karl in the background; maybe the fix is fusing Uncle Karl with another character; maybe the fix is getting rid of Uncle Karl altogether.

The point is: you have to be open (and objective) about the process of your story’s development. To that end you have to pick the right readers. Inevitably our loved ones become the first ones to read our stories. This is good and bad. The positive: they have a vested interest in you and in encouraging you so there’s that. The negative: they have a vested interest in you and in encouraging you, so they might not be as harsh on your story as someone else. So be sure you’re having the right people reading, not that your loved ones shouldn’t read your stories, but you should have others too. You need other people to read your stories, because you’re going to need someone to be harsh on your stories for them to get better.

There’s an inspirational sports poster I remember seeing in my high school: Pain is weakness leaving the body. The same can be true of the harshness of a critique. The reason for editing is to get the best story possible.

Who doesn’t want to put out their best work?

So stay open to the process (no getting mad at people for helping). And remember, very few books are their best on the first draft.

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