I came away from Monday’s critique equipped with thoughtful overview letters, manuscript line edits and 10 single-spaced pages of notes from our several-hour discussion.
And now I’m digging into all this rich, fertile soil, not sure whether to plant or weed or water. The only way I’ll find out is to jump in and get my hands dirty.
My wonderful writing group, thorough as always, posed questions, offered big-picture suggestions and pointed out specific choices that don’t work. As I expected, my protagonist’s development isn’t fleshed out yet–it is, after all, a first draft, and I’ve been focused on plot and voice and world-building.
After a lot of consideration, I’ve decided to smooth out Henri’s journey before I continue writing any new scenes. It’s a dangerous choice, because I don’t want to lose momentum, but on the other hand, I’ve been struggling for weeks with the final chapters. They don’t feel right. And that’s most likely because Henri’s arc is incomplete and unfocused.
So even though I’m approaching the end of the novel, I’m going to slow down and work with the first 80,000 words for a while. Get my hands really dirty. Fill documents with new scenes and cut scenes.
As we’ve discussed, many writers won’t show anyone their work until it’s complete. I am very lucky to have been part of this writing group for four years; if we didn’t have that kind of connection and trust, I’m not sure I would have benefitted from a mid-manuscript critique. I’ve heard countless stories about how feedback, given in the wrong spirit or at the wrong time, can be toxic to the writing process. And yes, I’ve had some of those unfortunate experiences over the years, before I found my two wonderful writing groups.
I was nervous about submitting these unfinished pages for review, but the payoff has been immense. The line edits will be great for fixing specific details. The big-picture comments have given me a clearer sense of the story I’m trying to tell–and why I’ve chosen to tell it. I’m no longer blundering through the pages, bouncing from one plot point to the next. I know where I am and where I still need to go.
Thanks to my writing group for a great critique; to my other writing group for hearing this story in short bursts of pages once a month; and this online community of writers for helping me flesh out my thoughts about the writing process over the past year.