What my inner critic did for me this year

Frustrated Writer
Inner critics can be difficult to handle

Inner critics are lovely creatures that dwell within each and every one of us – writers or otherwise. I’ve been getting in touch with my inner critic over the last few years, and this year I have begun to recognise mine more intimately.

To me a writer’s inner critic is that internal voice that chastises and compliments a writer’s writing skills and contributions.

In June this year, I finished writing my draft novel Fractured. It was a wonderful feeling to have finally crafted a draft manuscript of over 150,000 words. Now all I had to do was massage it into a novel so I could share with others. Easier said then done.

The first day I opened my draft to begin reading, I began to despair. I kept trying to read it like a reader – no editing allowed. For nearly three weeks I would come back to my manuscript and read a bit more each time. By the end of three weeks, I was close to finishing the first of three folders, but I felt no different. It was horrible.

Manuscripts often end up filed away in draws. I suppose, I could have thrown mine away in disgust. But I didn’t. There were parts of the manuscript that seemed to hold promise, so rather than continue trying to punish myself and keep reading, I went back to the beginning and began the process of rewriting and editing.

My draft manuscript
Nothing gets started without coffee.

The first chapter took a few weeks to work through and by the end it was no longer the first chapter, but the second chapter. This revised second chapter now forms a piece of writing that no longer makes my inner critic cringe. I had improved one chapter of my manuscript, yet I knew even this chapter was not completed. I could do better.

How could I improve my manuscript and improve my writing as a whole? I needed professional guidance on my writing – structured knowledge that could improve my writerly skills and attributes, broaden my awareness of the industry and profession and help to build my confidence. Rather than keep searching the writers’ blogosphere for guidance on how to improve my writing, my inner critic sent me back to school.

I’m nearly at the end of my first term in a Master of Arts (Writing) with Swinburne University. Throughout these initial twelve weeks my writing skills and knowledge have improved.

Writing has been constant at University. I’ve completed research that led to the culmination of a short, science fiction story on Mars. I drafted a new, first chapter to Fractured and was brave enough to give it to a critical friend for feedback. I critiqued another writer’s work and in doing so, I have reflected on my journey learning a great deal about my writing and writerly self. And I’ve begun germinating the idea for a second series that will follow Fractured. It has been an extremely informative and exhausting twelve weeks. The information I have gained from these first two units has been rewarding. I could never have gained this on my own.

As the school holidays approach, there will be some serious editing sessions on Fractured. My inner critic will join me to pound the pages towards the culmination of a second draft, and then a third and a fourth and perhaps a fifth and sixth – although I highly doubt all that will happen in the summer break, so I’ll just settle for a second draft instead.

One of the most important things I have learnt this year about my inner critic is that it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. With the right approach, it can set you on the path to improving your writing and manuscript.

Comments, thoughts?