Tag Archive for: critique groups

The Act of Revision

When you think of what an author does all day, most people think about the creative part. Weaving a story from an idea, or three, into a full fledged book, filled with characters, conflict, and, emotion.

That happens, but not in the first draft.

I’ve got revisions on the brain. I just finished my final, first draft for a bull rider’s book. I had a beta reader who acted like a first editor, read through and help clean up the draft. Then, as I went through my own drafting process, I also incorporated her comments.

Then it went to my publisher. Now that I’ve sold the project, the book will be back on my desk in a few weeks for copy edits.

By the time the story is done, the book will have gone through five sets of ‘edits’ including my original changes from my first draft.

Why am I telling you this? This weekend, I gave a talk to a local writer’s group. At break, one of the members came to be to ask about a scene in his story where the woman overcomes massive childhood issues with a love scene. The author talked about the symbolism of the act and explained what it all meant.  When I mentioned that he might need to show her healing in other ways then use the scene as a cumulation of the growth in the character’s arc, he shook his head. The book, he said, was already done.

I disagree. A book is never done until it’s published and in the readers hands. Even if you’re shopping what you believe to be a finished product to agents and editors, you may need to tweak and adjust the story to score that contract. And even then, your story may change during the publisher’s editing process.

I used to believe that once I wrote ‘The End’, the book was done.

Now, I realize that is a fairy tale.  It takes a village to write a book. From beta readers, critique partners, to agents, copy, developmental and line editors, many hands touch your baby as it goes through the process.  At the end, you’ll have a better product.  Or at least that’s the goal.

I’m heading back to the editing cave.

Writers Critique Groups

Some writers hate them and others swear by them. I’m in the latter group. I was first introduced to critique groups back when I was writing my first book that was published, Two Ways West. I couldn’t find a critique group where I lived, but my sister found one and took my manuscript chapter by chapter. Because I wasn’t there, they were merciless. But I was glad they were. Author Francine Rivers was a part of that group.

I didn’t have a clue what point-of-view meant and when they told my sister I had point-of-view problems I told her I only knew what it meant to have a point-of-view. They managed to get across to her and then to me about POV.

When we moved to where we live now, I discovered a notice in the paper for a writers’ critique group and I could hardly wait. I’ve belonged to that group ever since. It changed over time, as well as the people who attend. In the beginning, there were so many people we didn’t always get to read. But if you missed, then you were first the next time.

From time to time, the group grew smaller, always to those most committed to making their writing better. For a long while, we had a wonderful leader named Willma Gore. She taught me so much about every aspect of writing. She eventually left us too, and moved on. Now she’s busy teaching writing in Sedona AZ and still selling articles. Over 80, she just returned from what she says is her last book tour–but I don’t believe it.

Now, our group consists of the very woman who actually started the group before I was a part of it, a young school teacher writing children’s books, a retired rancher who is also writing a children’s book, and various others who show up from time to time.

I feel it’s imperative to run my book by the group. It’s amazing what suggestions they each come up with. I don’t always agree, but they make me think and make some kind of change. Once I’ve read the whole book through, since I’m two books ahead, I can take the time to do this, I’ll send it off to my good friend, Willma, for a final edit.

After that I’ll go through it one last time and send it off to my publishers–and you can be sure the editor there will also find things to change. By that time, unless it destroys the plot or is illogical, I don’t argue. I’m ready to move onto my next project.

For me, having a critique group to run my novels by has been invaluable.