Monday, May 16, 2011

How a Critique of 15 Pages Improved My Novel

The relationship an author has with their novel is truly unique:

·    The novel is a part of them. After hundreds—or even thousands—of painful hours of effort and craft, a novel represents the emotional journey needed to create their masterpiece. There’s tears on some pages, blood dripping from the cover, and sweat in the binding.
·    While complete, the novel has delicate flaws that never seem to disappear. Sometimes a word, a particular description, or even a name constantly vexes the author, begging for another revision.
·    The novel is a business. There’s a process to writing a book that can’t be accomplished on a long weekend, or during a week of vacation. Whether an author plans in detail or writes solely from inspiration, the dedication to apply the rules of writing into a novel length manuscript is a business skill. Nothing short of hard work and dedication are required.
·    The novel is a talisman of hope. Most authors have livelihoods that restrict them from pure creativity. Jobs, families, and social responsibilities occupy so much of their time that the moments spared to write incite dreams of a new future. If they could sell this one fantastic novel, then writing could become their number one priority.
·    The novel is a delicate creation. Authors protect their works at all costs. Backup files and hard copies keep the writing safe, while careful selection of beta readers shields the story from exploitation.

Taking all of the above with me, I spent an afternoon at a writing boot camp. There, five of us shared the first fifteen pages of our novels and offered various critiques and observations. We had a published author to lead our group, who shared her experiences with publishing while offering additional insight. The best part of the group was how different all of us were. These weren’t friends I had known for years; they were strangers with different personalities, tastes, and motivations. All wrote YA, but all had unique writing styles and points of view. I dared myself to trust them.

At the end of my fifteen pages, the advice they gave was priceless. It gave me a new insight about my writing and helped me understand my reader—them. Some of the best questions challenged my character’s motivations and forced me to take another a hard look at some specific details within those pages. After the boot camp, I applied the lessons learned and reviewed my entire novel. It’s AMAZING what happened. There were tiny holes everywhere—they were so subtle that I had never noticed them before. I wrote down every hole and began fixing them. That led me to the final scene in my book; I didn’t like it. The scene was well written, but it could be so much better. After everything I put the reader through, I owed them more.

I rewrote my ending for On Fallen Wings. Can I tell you I love it? It’s so different that I’ll need to rework a couple things, but that doesn’t matter. Thanks to a critique of fifteen pages, my novel will be the best that I can give you. That’s what matters.


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  2. I love the way you said "Can I tell you I love it?" I am so excited for you!!! That is the best feeling ever and it is so hard to accomplish. Sounds like you're almost finished!! :)

  3. SOUNDS AWESOME I love it when a critque does what it should!! BTW I have an award for you, it will be up on my blog very soon!!

  4. Thanks, Shawna. Keep an eye out. I'll be sharing my first page on here soon. Angela, thanks for the award. I'll post my acceptance trivia later this week!

    I was excited to write On Fallen Wings, and working on the sequel is equally thrilling, but this past week, I've been "giddy" as I fine tune the details. Thanks to wonderful and honest feedback, the story and the writing is better than ever.

  5. I love your site! Right where I might find a faery!


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