Monday, March 7, 2016

My Critique Partner – Calling a Spade a Spade

I recently acquired a critique partner. Is that the right term: acquired? Sounds a bit like a highly sought-after object, like “I recently acquired that gorgeous red Ferrari” or “I recently acquired an excellent pair of flab-flattening big girl panties”.

The highly sought-after is right, but I think she might object to the object.

It has been a revelation. We started off our new relationship with us both stating that we had the skin of a rhinoceros and we wanted brutal, your-butt-looks-big-in-that, honesty. I perhaps should have thought a little more before making such a grand, sweeping gesture. “I really want to improve my writing” I said bravely. (Some might say, stupidly.) “Just say it like it is, give me what you’ve got.”  

Well, what I’ve got, is a giant dose of the clichés. Apparently, I write in overused, hackneyed phrases. Not just occasionally, but all the sodding time. I am the proverbial cliché-queen.

I had no idea. When I got back the first chapter of my memoir, it was like being back at school in my dreaded German class. Instead of red pen slashing my poorly written essay, now there were little ‘Comment’ bubbles exploding on the page, blasting my sins. Same with the second and third chapters. By the fourth, the penny had finally dropped and I thought, there’s no time like the present, and even though you can’t please everyone, I really wanted to please my new critique partner. It was time to buckle down and get back to the drawing board. I had been barking up the wrong literary tree thinking that a cliché would work when, as it was gently explained to me and obvious now in hindsight, hyperbole is the answer.

A few chapters on and I was at my wits end, pulling out my hair trying to think up new and funny ways to say the same old thing. I was between a rock and a hard place, bending over backwards not to beat a dead horse with an old chestnut. But it looked like the cat had got my tongue as writer’s block set in.

It was clear as a bell to me that I had opened a can of worms by asking for such a no-holds-barred critique. Not to be one to lie down like a dead dog with word fatigue, I decided it was time to get this dog and pony show on the road. I was being shown that the devil was in the details and, even though each fresh Comment bubble drove me up the wall, I finally took the bull by the horns and it was full steam ahead.

And wouldn’t you know it, my critique partner was right on the money. She had hit the nail firmly on my stubborn head. I decided it was no use crying over spilled clichés, so I weeded them out like the proverbial bird pecking that pesky worm.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, so they say, and now that I used some of the tricks up my sleeve, I was like a force of nature. And, wonders will never cease, I actually preferred not using all the clichés. I had just been lazy. So much easier to use one tired old phrase than to think up something witty and original. I am pleased as punch because, not to be fishing for compliments or anything, I feel my writing is so much better.

Now that we finally see eye to eye, I would like to say that she is one in a million and has jump-started my enthusiasm for finishing my book. Thanks Partner :)