Anyone who writes ANYTHING needs to Kill their Darlings and Get a Dragon Lady (Part Two)
Last week I wrote about how anyone who writes anything—be it emails, personal statements, or CV’s—should read this so they can improve their writing and get ahead in life. Today we pick up where we left off:
6) Get a Dragon Lady (aka Beta Readers)
My unfiltered thoughts aren’t pretty. They shouldn’t be unleashed upon the world until an objective third party has read them and given me feedback. So I have Dragon Lady who acts as an unofficial editor (she came up with her own nickname after we spoke about a famous, tough as nails New York editor).
Dragon Lady is a Diverse Voice with a different skin tone and spiritual views than myself. Because Dragon Lady and I have known each other longer than we’ve known our husbands, we’re comfortable enough to be honest with each other. It’s good to have at least one friend like this.
She’s been a wise counsel for me, advising me through much needed job changes. And Dragon Lady always manages to talk me off the ledge when I want to quit medicine and go live in a hut in the mountains somewhere.
Action Plan: Find a few friends who will give you real feedback on your writing (us folks who grew up in New York don’t beat around the bush. If you ask our opinion about writing that needs improvement, we’ll tell you. So go find a New Yorker if you can 😉 ).
Only ignore this advice to get a beta reader if negative press/being a lightning rod is your shtick. In which case, knock yourself out—but in the long run, people are talking smack about you and unsubscribing for a reason. Be nicer when you write, please.
7) Consider numbered paragraphs or bullet points. This helps keep readers oriented as they read. Kind of like this one. 🙂
8) Kill Your Darlings. What you write is valid, but not all of it needs to go into the finished product. Mourn the loss of cutting out paragraphs and ideas, but in the end, your reader will thank you for a cleaner read.
9) Learn how to write. I’ve been writing off and on since I was eight years old. The first three decades of learning how to write were not pretty.
Warning: when you get a writing education, you become a picker reader. I’m not the only writer who’s had to put down books because my eyeballs were bleeding from the author’s poor writing technique. Heck, that was my own writing in the not so distant past (who knows—people may still stop reading my stuff halfway through, lol).
Action Plan to help you learn to be a better writer: Get critique partners. If you can’t find any, form your own critique group either online or in person (if you want guidelines of how to run a group, email me, I have a word document of expectations to be followed for critique groups. Also see this book for help).
You can also attend writing workshops, join local writers groups, or take classes online (the Women Physician Writers Facebook group often talks about GrubStreet classes).
10) Perfection is the enemy of done. ‘Nuff said.
11) Not everyone is your reader. Just like I’m not a fan of every writer, all people won’t gravitate towards my writing. And that’s okay, because each human is unique. When getting feedback on your writing, you need the wisdom to discern if that person is “your reader”…or not.
12) Be nice out there. Don’t slam other writers or their writing by name. There will always be someone in your audience that loves that author and you’ve just created a huge chasm between you and that person. (I’ll never forget being in a memoir writing class at a writing work shop and this famous, New York Times Best Selling Author ridiculed memoir classes. She alienated not only me, but my entire class. None of us joined her book signing line after her lecture.)
When you open your mouth and insult other writers by name, you’re showing your brain isn’t a warm and fuzzy place to hang out in. Your writing is an extension of your thoughts. Readers are inhabiting your mind. If you’re full of toxicity, readers won’t want to read what you’ve written. So be a nice date for your readers.
And be friendly—kill them with kindness if need be, like the Physician on Fire did recently. None of us are better than anyone else. We’re all struggling with this thing called life. A little support of each other would go a long way.
And as Batman says in the Lego movie, “Life doesn’t give you seatbelts.” So please try to be kind to each other out there.
Any further writing advice or comments on this series would be most appreciated. Have a great week!