Thursday, December 17, 2009

An honest critique; a gift beyond price

I don't typically subject my readers/crit partners to first drafts, but a writer friend had the time to offer crit on the first draft of "Future Tense."  While it is a pretty 'clean' draft in terms of the basics (grammar, basic plot, characters) it is still a first draft and as such, needs work. 

I tend to write 'lean.'  Setting and character motivation are there, but in skeletal form.  In some ways, a first draft is essentially a proof of concept. Does the whole hang together in a cohesive way?  Or to put it more bluntly, the question I ask my readers is this:  Are there any "WTF" moments that make you want to hurl the book across the room?

What I want from a first draft is a main character the reader can attach to, a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and without "WTF" moments.  If I create that, I have the structure for a solid story.

My writer friend was extraordinarily generous with her time and provided me with 5 pages of notes.  But before she sent me the file, she asked me how thick my skin was.

While my emotional self was huddled in the corner with its thumb in its mouth, my writer self was turning handsprings. 

This is why:  a solid critique is a gift beyond price. 

Do I have this fantasy that I'll write a first draft that will be flawless, that will have all the Hollywood directors lining up for the movie rights, that will win all sorts of prizes and garner a 6 figure advance?  Sure.  But magical thinking doesn't get a book written.

And if you want to play with the big boys, you have to be willing to do the hard work of tearing your manuscript apart and putting it back together again.

That's where good crit comes in. 

I believe it is nearly impossible for the writer to gain enough distance from the work to be objective enough.  Part of the process of writing is to hopelessly and utterly fall in love with the work.  Otherwise, it becomes a masochistic process to chain yourself to the word processor for something you can't stand.  And if the writer doesn't love it first, how can the reader?

So it takes an outside eye to point out the flaws and the seams.  If you find such a reader, he or she is someone to treasure. I have been fortunate enough to have several such readers in my life.  One is not a writer, but a voracious reader with keen instincts and insights into what makes a story satisfying.

This is the first critique I have received from my writer friend.  When she asked me how thick my skin was, I had a 'uh oh' moment.  But I charged ahead, letting her know I could take it and her critique was thorough, honest, and thoughtful.

It will help immensely when I tackle the revision/editing process for "Future Tense."

I am extremely grateful and hope I can return the favor.

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