Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -- Gene Fowler

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Critiques, Revision and Story, Oh My!

It's been said it's dangerous to show your fledgling work to people. Lawrence Block echoes this opinion in "Telling Lies for Fun and Profit", and I can't say I disagree either. Block argues against showing unfinished work on the grounds it gives you an excuse to interrupt your progress on the work, especially if the work is going well.

The piece I've tossed out to a couple of writer friends recently is a 26,000 word novel(ette) I wrote in 2005 for National Novel Writing Month. I've previously shopped the first few chapters around at my college's critique group, but that was a few years ago, and most of what that group did was circle every adverb I had written. So far I've heard from one of the readers, who has offered only that the story was interesting, that she wanted to find out what happened, but didn't care about the characters.

As a self-professed character-driven writer, this critique is more than a bit troublesome. If my characters are flat, I have a serious problem. This is but the first in what I hope will be a collection of critique comments on this work, but it's an inauspicious beginning. See Block's comment above.

The story is complete as written, inasmuch as it has a clear beginning, middle, and end. But it certainly could use some tweaking (or carving up, as the case may be), and fleshing out. I fully intend to sit down with Holly Lisle's one-pass manuscript editing instructions and do what I can, though it's easy for me to get lost. It's like trying to clean my disaster of a bedroom when I was a teenager: "where do I start?"

The more I think about it, the more I think I need to really dig into this story and determine if it's actually a complete start-to-finish novel. It's probably a bad idea to attempt to revise an incomplete manuscript.

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