Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Painful, but Essential Critique

It sounds so easy. I mean, the story is in your head, just sit down at a computer and pound out some words. Once you are finished you will have a beautiful masterpiece that you will bestow upon an editor and they will be oh so happy to publish you thousands of copies and you will make tons of money and all your dreams will come true. I think I missed the singing mice somewhere in there, but I think you get the gist.

Somewhere along the line you get writer's block and convince yourself to just pound through that chapter, you'll fix it when editing. Eight months later you have a very rough draft of 60,000 words, which is apparently unlikely to ever be published that needs tons and tons of work. Where oh where to start? I sat down at my trusty little laptop and started reading through that very rough draft. Ouch! And so I made my initial run of sweeping edits and try not to cringe at sentences that make no sense.

One thing I've done throughout this process is research. Its my nature, I love to research. So along the way I've learned all the other fun things you get to do, such as have other people look at your beautiful, perfect novel and rip it to shreds. It hurts, it hurts so bad, like being forced to listen to Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus while watching Firebirds bad. No, that's not true, nothing is worse than watching Firebirds. Just trust me, DO NOT go try and watch it. You will only hate yourself later.

Editing, revising, and critiquing are all very similar things. The point of all of them is to find things that don't work and make them better. Editing my own stuff is difficult because I am a very harsh critic on myself, but then I get the opportunity to hear a bunch of other people tell me that it isn't working as well. At some point, I assume every author says to themselves, maybe this isn't any good and I should scrap the whole thing. I've had my moment, and I'm over it. For now at least.

So that's the bad, there's also the good. And the good is really good. I was in a panic over going to the critique group. I have shielded this so carefully because I know it is so imperfect that the thought of these other writers looking at it and critiquing it made me want to just scrap the whole thing. But I went and it was great. The people are great, they're really knowledgeable and while they don't always agree, we have a lot of enlightening discussions. And when I've been only able to talk to myself about this baby of mine for the past eight months, it's nice to be able to talk to someone else about it.

Every website, every article, every chapter critique makes me better. And even though it hurts to be told you have a lot of work to do, at least you know where to start. Thank you critique group!

P.S. I think my critique group would point out at least 5 commas that I missed in this post. :)

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