Writer’s need to develop rhino skin, it’s true. If you want to improve your writing, you will need other writers to critique it. Early and often, you should subject yourself to (constructive) criticism from writers you admire.
“Be careful what you wish for”
Recently, I paid to have a published author of urban fantasy critique my novel. I submitted a two-page synopsis of the novel and the first twenty pages several weeks before our meeting.
Then I took a class “The First Five Pages” and completely rewrote the beginning of my story. What was I thinking?
When I entered the business center a few minutes before my scheduled appointment, I already had an agent’s business card. She wanted the first fifty pages of the novel I had asked this author to critique.
That had to mean my manuscript was read, right? An agent loved the premise and main story and character arc. Time to move to the next level with my book. So, I was reading for whatever this other writer had to say about my manuscript. Right?
I handed Ms. Hughes my new beginning. She read it quickly and commended me on improving the story. She pointed out a few areas where my language might be confusing to my readers.
In front of her, she had the pages I had sent her. White margins no longer existed on the first three pages. Her comments were scrawled everywhere.
First, we discussed my synopsis and how it lacked the essential component of introducing the setting. In a fantasy novel, this is element cannot be overlooked.
“I almost stopped reading when I saw it was a destiny story,” she said. “These have been overdone.”
The context cleared. She read my manuscript with a bias against the premise from the outset. Of course, she realized by the end of the synopsis that this didn’t sound like a “girl must find her destiny” story.
We talked for thirty minutes. She pointed out areas where she was confused. More details need to be added prior.
“It needs more setup,” she said. Then turned to a page where she lined out several paragraphs of setup. “This information isn’t essential at this point. Add it in when she actually goes to the city.”
Too much detail. Not enough detail. Details in the wrong place.
In fact, there are only six sentences in the entire twenty-two pages that she commended. Am I sure I’ve selected the correct career path?
I agreed with 80 percent of what she said. I was stunned by 20 percent. The fact that my writing style with metaphoric actions can be confusing to fantasy readers stopped me in my tracks. Am I writing in the correct genre? I had to wonder.
She suggested two resources – one for story structure (guess I didn’t have it down after following the advice and guidance of Brooks and Bell) and one for sentence structure. “Your sentence construction is really holding you back.”
At the end, she stated that taking a few classes on world building might be a good next step. “All fantasy writers struggle with this in the beginning.”
Do all of them have an agent’s request for pages of the manuscript lying flayed before them?
What had I gotten myself into? A world of revisions. Or the chance to walk away from this project because it was too far from ready to be read.
If the choice seems obvious to you, come back next Friday to see what other murderous (or manuscript-enhancing) things await this novel I keep touting about on this website and Facebook.
Will Daughter of Water get a second look from me – meaning more rewriting? Or will I choose to toss it in the trash and move on to the next great thing (of which I have 35,000 words currently written)?