Goals are good things. My editor established one goal when she gave me a due date for the mystery revision: February 15. But it was pretty clear that she’d like to have it sooner, so I have a private goal of getting it out the door by the end of the third week in January. I also have a more immediate goal. I’d like to have finished a rough recasting of the scenes by the week after Christmas. My college-age daughters will be back for winter break. It would be good to have them check the voice and word choice.
As important as it is to push forward, I did wind up going back to the first chapter one more time this morning. Two of my in-person critique groups have reviewed it in the past week or so. With their help, I managed to cut a bit of fat out of the first chapter. Some of the facts and characters will need to be stitched into the book later, but first chapters need to clip along and hold the interest of the readers. Roughly half of my writer friends felt things really started to clip along at the middle of page five. The rest had their attention caught earlier. So I did manage to cut out half a page so that the really high stakes of this novel became apparent by the bottom of page 4.
Thank goodness for great critique groups. They let you know exactly what is actually on the page and make solid recommendations for what should be added or taken away. Here’s how Stephen King recommended handling criticism from ten or so people in the 1990 version of THE WRITER’S HANDBOOK:
“…if a lot of peope are telling you something is wrong with your piece it is. If seven or eight of them are hitting o that same thing, I’d stll suggest changing it. But if everyone–or even most everyone–is criticizing something different, you can safely disregard what all of them say.”