For the first time in months, I have the pleasure to critique manuscripts for a few writing buddies of mine. I love critiquing almost as much as I love writing. First, I love reading other writers’ amazing stories. And also, doing critiques for others helps me become a better editor and critiquer of my own work.
As a writer, I think it’s important to have a few different writerly brains:
First draft brain
Now, you may have heard some people refer to these as muscles. I much prefer to call them brains, because these are all skills you can learn, change, and improve upon with time and practice. Plus, I don’t know about you, but my muscles are getting a tad flabby in my olden age. But my writing craft and my writing brains are getting stronger.
So why three different brains?
Each part of writing requires a different set of skills and while all your brains should help each other out, it’s very very helpful to have just one brain turned on depending on what part of the writing process you’re in.
Let’s define each brain:
First draft brain - This brain is in charge of creating something out of nothing. It looks at a blank page and sees potential. Not sure about world building details or your character’s main arc yet? Don’t worry! First draft brain will attempt to figure it out. This brain thrives on those creative juices. And sometimes wine.
Revision brain - This brain loves to solve puzzles. Is there a tricky plot hole or a character that’s falling flat? Don’t worry! Revision brain to the rescue. This brain is extremely detailed oriented and enjoys picking things apart and molding them into something beautiful. This brain often requires a lot of energy, and coffee.
Critique brain - This brain loves to pull focus, from the bigger picture of a story to a single sentence. It cheers when it finds grammatical mistakes and gets a thrill out of analyzing why something isn’t quite working. But the best part of this brain is when it gets awestruck at how amazing a manuscript is. This brain loves to happy dance, to cry, to ponder something waaaay longer than it should, and to offer hopefully helpful suggestions.
Some writers prefer to use just one brain a day. They, say, either focus on a first draft or focus on revisions.
I actually like to use multiple brains in one day. Like right now, I’m switching between first draft brain and critiquing brain. The reason I like this is because I don’t overuse one brain and tire it out. And because first draft brain and critique brain are so different, I find it easy to flip one on and the other off.
But you’ll want to be careful if you’re doing this. If you’re in the middle of a first draft, you need to shut down your revision and critique brains. They will only distract you by pointing out your story’s flaws and suggesting (rather rudely) that you go back and revise things rather than move forward in your story. A first draft is exploratory. You shouldn’t be heavily editing yourself (regardless if you’re a pantser or plotter). You need to turn off your inner critic and give your first draft brain some space so it can do its job.
Same for if you’re critiquing. When you critique someone else’s work, you need to keep in mind the story they’re trying to tell. It’s their world, their characters, their voice. You should not have your revision brain turned on and be giving comments on how you’d go about fixing things. It’s not your story. Your critique brain realizes this, which is why it’s giving revision brain the side eye right about now.
All writers have all three brains, though some brains may be bigger than others. That’s okay! Strengthening these brains and gaining knowledge and skills can take time. And what’s great is there isn’t any ending point. You can continue to nourish your brains, even well into your writing career.
Never stop improving your crafts!
Onto this past week’s stats!
My mood regarding the past week: I’m in a groove, and I love it!
My mood for this coming week: Winter break - all the words!
Other insights: As it says on my home page, I’m a Middle Grade mentor for the amazing mentorship program, Author Mentor Match. The mentor profiles are going live tonight, so keep an eye our for those!
That's it for now. Til next week!