Archive for the ‘Critique Groups’ Category

When Lack of Sympathy is a Good Thing

February 9, 2013

Here’s an excerpt from Sue Bradford Edward’s recent blog post at Women on Writing:

For about two months, I’ve been playing around with a rewrite. I’ll work on it a bit and then set it aside because it hasn’t jelled. Every now and again, I figure out a problem and get some writing done, but after two months I have 10 pages. Ten. Can you say discouraged?

Fortunately, I had a critique group meeting last weekend. This was the perfect chance to trot out my problem manuscript. These writing friends would be able to point out a few more problems for me to fix, but they would also commiserate. Or so I thought.

They refused.

That’s right. Refused.

I confess to being a member of this critique group. What did we tell her?

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Naming Characters II

February 10, 2010

In an earlier post, I wrote about some of my naming problems for a protagonist.  When I ran my list of new names for that person past my various critique groups, I got a wide variety of answers.  Elisa was a favorite with many, but my son shot that one down in something less than a heartbeat. Since he and I have similar reading tastes, I had to take him seriously.  I also did a ‘find and replace’ on the names to put them into the manuscript and see how they felt.  I used my reading aloud trick, too.  None really worked for me.  So I went back searching for German girls’ names on the web and found Calyn, which shares a lot with Katrin.  In fact, the shape of the mouth when pronouncing the consonants R and L are quite similar. 

Do I have a winner?  Maybe.

Forward Progress

December 17, 2009

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.”

YA Mystery: Chapter 1 Revision is Done!

November 18, 2009

First chapters and last chapters are often among the hardest ones for any novelist.  You have to first pull the reader smoothly into your world with the first and ease them out in a satisfying way in the last.  It’s necessary to put in just enough information so that the readers know exactly what’s going on, but not so much that it weighs down the story.  Plus readers have a well-tuned sensor for when the author is providing important information for their benefit rather than following the flow of the story.   That’s why I do my best to make explanations seem like the very thoughts of my main character.   Did I achieve this in my revision to Chapter 1 of my YA mystery.  Well, maybe not all of it.  But that’s what critique groups are for.  They let me know what’s really on page.