Monday, July 21, 2008

The Gift of Critique

I haven't really looked at my second novel in over a year. I remember it as a fairly 'clean' draft, thought it was written pretty well, with a strong narrative line, a unique set up, and interesting characters. I even felt confident enough in it to query for it.

I recently joined a critique group for completed novels and decided to offer it to the group for critique. I chose this novel since my forth novel was just completed and I felt too close to it to think about returning for revision. My third novel was out with several agents. So number two went to the group.

I received a finished critique this week and was blindsided. Seeing the book through my crit partner's eyes was a revelation. This novel has some deep flaws that I was completely unable to see without an outside perspective.

This is a priceless gift. Not only did the critique point out the flaws, but it offered some suggestions to fix them. Not all of the suggestions will fit my vision for this novel, but just being able to see the story through different eyes has given me perspective.

Would I have been able to see what this novel needed without this critique? Maybe. Certainly, I am able to see some flaws that the critique did not catch, merely on the basis of having written 2 additional novels after this one. The main weakness of this story is that the plot feels like a series of plot devices, rather than an organic unfolding of events. This is in sharp contrast to novel number 4 which was written from a deep character perspective and more of a seat of the pants process. While I agonized during the writing, I think the plot hangs together better because I didn't force the resolution.

I think this story is worth fixing. And I think I've learned enough along the way in the past several years and several novels to do it.

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