Ella: The Rainbow Pen Defense

Okay, first of all, I didn’t run out of ink, it’s just that have a million pretty pens and a very short attention span.

Well, not quite a million. Clearly I need more!

Well, not quite a million. Clearly I need more!

And second—it wasn’t a red pen. I got my teaching degree in the nineties when they were teaching us that red ink causes students emotional trauma, and we were never, never to use it. It was a hot pink pen.

When RB gives me her manuscript to critique I do this weird mash-up of copy edit and beta read. It just sort of evolved that way—when RB first gave me manuscripts to look at I corrected them the way my English composition professor corrected my papers. The more I learned about story, the more my focus shifted to character and plot. What we end up with is much too much hot pink ink on the page for a beta read, which is supposed to be about what worked and what didn’t in the story, and much too unfocused for a copy edit. I’m marking passive verbs and adding sentence breaks at the same time I’m asking about a character’s motivation. And then, I’m doing a copy edit of a draft, which seems like a waste of everyone’s time. Maybe the heavy pink ink should be saved for a final copy. But then again, I’m nearly as slow at critiquing RB’s work as I am at finishing my own. I think it might kill her if she had to wait for me to go through it twice.

I just don’t know.

Maybe it’s fine; maybe working with a critique partner is like writing a first draft: there’s no wrong way to do it as long as you’re happy with what you get.

What do you guys do? Do you have a critique partner you work with? Who reads your work first and how do you want them to respond to it? At what point do you want a copy edit?

And most importantly, what color ink do you prefer?

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