Misdiagnosing Your Writing

Is it time to fix your words?

It isn’t often that a misdiagnosis helps my writing. A few years ago, a new doctor decided that the colleague who diagnosed the rash on my palm was mistaken. “The good news is, what he prescribed didn’t do you any harm,” she said. The better news is, I decided I could make that work for me.

Stay with me here. Diagnosis is hard, and diagnosing skin issues is one of the hardest. It’s the same with writing. You know something is wrong is with the story, but what? Is there a hole in the plot? Are the characters not playing together nicely? Is the subtext fighting with everything else?

Now comes the real hard part. You ask people you trust for help, but what if they misjudge the problem? What if you’re advised to rejigger the plot, but that doesn’t solve anything? Back to square one with different advisers?

I can’t tell you what the solution is for your problem piece. I usually let the words rest long enough that my inner critic shuts up and the inner genius can get busy (I’ve had one piece resting for six years now, so this isn’t exactly a quick fix). In the meantime, nothing I did has done any harm. Tweaking the plot, changing the characters, revisiting the subtext – that’s all important work which will help me be a better writer for the next project.

So, thank your advisers, beta readers, and critique partners for all their misdiagnoses. In the end, it’s worth it.

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