now that i have it….

Five, sometimes six different critiques from the members of my group. It’s taken me not one week but two to go back through two submissions from the opening pages of my wip. The most important part of any novel in my opinion. And for me, always the most difficult. Normally the beginning that gets my story going is not the one I think it should be by the time first draft is done. This time however I was quite confident about my opening, until one member of my group suggested re-sequencing! ahhhhh! The problem was that I liked the suggestion, while liking the opening the way it is now!!!! I haven’t moved things around quite yet, I’ll see.

So, I’ve been going through each member’s critique, and I have created a notebook file (something I have never done before!) and have written down each piece of criticism that I agree with. Be it language, paragraphing, word choice, characterization, whatever, you all know the drill. The ones that i am not certain but warrant further contemplation also go into that notebook. Now I have pages of notes, but it’s all in one spot, and what’s been most interesting combining it all in one file is seeing the overlaps. The sentences that jarred 3 or 4 members, the imageries that didn’t work. Once in a while one person will point something out no one else did, see things completely unique to him, and I think wow – what an interpretation!

In the past I implemented the changes after reading the critique from one person, and then moving on to the next. This way works much better for me. It allows for a much stronger interpretation of the feedback. And it gives me time to really make that feedback mine.

I was wondering how you process your feedback that you receive, from any source(s).

The other thing on my mind is this: how often do you re-write your opening? And do you wait until novel is at end stages to re-work it because  you know it can change so much from early to late stages?

Happy writing!

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23 thoughts on “now that i have it….

  1. I just went through this re-sequencing, as you called it. (I called it scene shifting.) I, too, liked the way I’d originally written the chapter, but understood the reason my critique partners suggested the change. Now, I’ve finally re-sequenced and will get their feedback next week.

    I’ve never managed critique the way you suggested, but I think I’ll try it. I’ve always done what you’ve done, worked through one critquer’s notes at a time. Suggested changes I’m not sure about, I insert in the ms with the Word comments feature, so I can consider them later.

    As for rewriting the opening … I’ve done it numerous times. I went through several versions of the opening paragraphs of this last novel and still didn’t feel it started out right. That’s because the focus of the book had changed by the time I finished writing it, but I was still trying to start it the original way. Now, my original first chapter has become the second.

    Off topic: In case, you hadn’t noticed, Cathryn and I both tagged you in the 8 questions game.

    • Yes, your spaghetti post 🙂
      I think the answer will only come once I rearrange and see the result, and once I answer my question of what I want the opening to show. They both are so different.
      I found the same thing happens to me, Linda, I loose focus on what I am trying to do in the opening scene and it ends up totally wishy washy. I get caught up in the writing, not the story if I tackle it too much – it becomes it’s own entity. I have learned to be ware of myself!

      (ooopss I am slowwww)

  2. That sounds like a great way to organize critique and identify overall trends in your writing. It’s hard to improve if you can’t identify areas that need strengthening. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Right now, I’m jumping back and forth with my opening. Can’t decide where it needs to be. But I’m not far enough into it to really judge that. With Bitter, Sweet, my original opening was Chapter 3 but I soon realized I needed to do something different. I’m just going to be patient and see what feels right. I don’t have a critique group, but my daughter was very helpful with some recent revisions and when I’m ready I’ll ask her opinion. She has great instincts.

  4. Glad to see you’re feeling better, hope the kiddos are too.

    I process critique much the same way, compile into my own set of notes by topic. I type my notes and then I can also include praise (and highlight in red 😉 ) to keep me motivated while I make changes.

    I’ve re-written the opening of my last novel 87,311 times.

  5. No one but my husband has read my novel openings (of which I’m not sure how to count), but for short stories, I handle critiques in a way similar to your new process, except I print or maintain hardcopies of whatever test readers give me. On the hardcopies, I mark with a check the suggestions that feel right, write my thoughts beside those that make me think, and mark with an x those that feel wrong. When I can’t decide how to handle a suggestion, I hint to a new reader that I’d like their opinion on the issue.

  6. Hi Jennifer,

    I think you have to trust your own insinct primarily, then consider the feedback. Obviously, if a lot of people make the same point, then they are probably on to something.

    “The other thing on my mind is this: how often do you re-write your opening? And do you wait until novel is at end stages to re-work it because you know it can change so much from early to late stages?” Basically, unless the opening works straight away, you would be better off bringing in a later section of the writing once the writing has had time to come alive. (Immediacy.) As for reworking, I think gut instinct is crucial here. If you sense the story needs revising, then go for it, whatever stage you are at in the writing at the time.

    Best wishes,

    Lawrence

  7. I will constantly re-write the beginning at the beginning and then at a certain point I let it go until I’m finished with the first (or whatever number) draft. Beginnings are really hard for me.

  8. Jennifer, I have lost count how many times I have changed my openings over the years, and manuscripts. My novel’s opening was changing up until the last draft–and don’t even get me started on how often the sequencing was changed. If anything, I am ALWAYS wondering just when something will feel done. Feedback is key. It is so hard to know what works and what doesn’t when we are looking at the same pages day in and day out. Putting them away can offer some distance and perspective, but feedback from a crit group is wonderful. As far as what to implement, it definitely has to feel right to you. I am fortunate to have an agent and an editor whose directions have always gelled with my ideas. I crave the input now, I really do.

    • yes you are lucky, Erika. because feedback i don’t agree with really throws me for a loop. so important to know where we stand with ourselves as a writer and be able to dismiss what would change our writing to no longer being ours. and that feeling done element you mentioned, so rare to attain, because our writing is forever evolving.

  9. Looks like I’m a little late giving my two cents…but I’ll give it a whirl anyway.

    My critique groups reads the piece aloud, then discusses. After that, everyone passes back a copy they’ve marked up. Usually, I take the notes from the discussion and all the comments people wrote down and compile them onto one copy of the piece that was critiqued. For me, it’s easier to have it all in one place, next to the phrases that people were writing about. It’s also nice to see the good things people have to say for when I need a little boost. I actually detailed my process here: http://theemptypen.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/letting-the-snark-out/

    I’ve only reworked my opening of my WIP once so far, but I’m only on draft two, so that number could change. Once I made a drastic change going into draft 2, I tweaked the opening for a while, but had to drop it if I ever wanted to move on.

    After I write a scene, I allow myself to go back and read it one for edits. After that, I plow ahead so I don’t get stuck on it. It’s hard, but if I keep my nose to the grindstone, I generally do OK.

  10. Hi CAm – it’s taken me a week to get back to you! Sorry about my absence.

    Do you find any benefit to reading out loud in your group? We e-mail our stuff out and receive the feedback prior to meeting this way we can really discuss what’s going on in our writing.

    I can’t edit a piece as I go because I’ll never move away from it. Ever! lol, but true. I get caught in the editing snare…It leaves a lot of work once draft number one is complete but it works for me.

    Thanks for the comment and sharing your process.

    • Yes, I actually find a lot of benefit to having my pieces read out loud. I was used to a system that sounds like what you describe: pre-reading and discussion, so this kind of critique was terrifying at first!

      Someone other than the author reads the piece so that the author can concentrate on listening. Hearing the words read aloud helps me hear where the rhythm of my writing is off and if there are certain phrases that might give the reader trouble.

      Sometimes it’s easier to hear that I’ve used a particular word ten times in as many sentences than it is to see it. I’ll also hear phrases that sound a whole lot cornier than they did in my head. And, of course, I hear entire scenes that really were much better than I first feared them to be.

      I recommend giving it a shot.

      Thanks so much for responding!

      • Yes, Cam, hearing someone else read your work certainly does put a different spin on how we perceive our stuff. Interesting thought, I’ll mention it to my group. Thanks!

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