Q. What was the most & least valuable pieces of advice you took away from your critique?
One of the most useful things from the crit session was the feedback that reflected my own doubts about where the weaknesses in the story lay.This was (extremely usefully) coupled with some great suggestions about where I could take it to address some of these weaknesses.I especially valued the comments that picked up on things about my characters that I could extend and use to make the story more compelling.
It’s given me a much needed dose of motivation to work through those things and some really useful direction about how I might go about that.
As my story is essentially a novel-length rendition of a well-known fairy tale, some of the feedback I received was that I need to make the very well-trodden path of its plot take a few more interesting and surprising twists and turns to keep it fresh.
However, some of the (er, more light-hearted!) suggestions were for fairly major deviations that wouldn’t really sit well with where I wanted to take the tale. They gave me laugh though!
One thing I did find interesting (and I’m not really sure if it’s actually a problem) is that while I envision my main readership for this type of story would be female, the crit group that month was all male (except me!).
So if there’s any girlies out there who feel like reading a 107K version of Beauty and the Beast…
Q. You’re on the tail end of this year’s crit group. What have you learned from giving critiques that has helped you on the receiving end?
Hmm… It was good knowing what sorts of things the others picked up on. That gave me a bit of a sense of what I could expect.
I’ve usually given a couple of pages of notes, then sent back an electronic copy of the manuscript with more detailed comments throughout.
A couple of people have done this for me, too, and it been very valuable. But now I still have to wade through it all!
The pages of notes have been great, though. They have given me a real sense of what direction to take for giving it the next coat of polish.
Q. What changes, if any, do you plan to make to your novel following the feedback you received?
That’s a really interesting question. I’ve been thinking a lot about that.
It’s all about the characters, really.
There were a couple of points on which the feedback was fairly consistent, and those points were probably the things I’d earmarked as potentially needing work.
Then there were some really interesting comments that really struck a chord for me – you know, that moment, when you think ‘Oh, yes!’.
Those were about increasing the role one of the characters plays, and about roughening up a couple of the other characters.
My protagonist, especially, is going to get a bit darker, I think.
It’s the changes that I will make coming out of those suggestions that I think will carry the other stuff with it, the ho hum sort of stuff I knew needed to tweak, but didn’t know how.
Q. Having both given and received novel critiques, what do you wish you’d known when the group started compared with what you know now?
Ha. That’s easy. Don’t drink your glass of red wine too quickly when it’s your turn. It makes it harder to focus!
Seriously, I think the main thing is – this being the first time I’ve participated in a novel crit group – that I feel much more confident in my ability to critically assess a story (including my own).
So, it’s not so much a wish I’d known, more like a ah, I’m glad I know that now.
Q. What advice would you give to anyone considering joining a similar group?
Do it. It’s an invaluable experience.
- (obviously) You get to road test your novel & find out where it needs more work. You get to find out where the plot holes are, which characters were unconvincing, which characters rocked, where you’ve clunked the info dump, where your masterful description swept your readers away and where your amateurish use of parentheses ejected them firmly from the flow of the story. Basically, why fork out for a manuscript appraisal when you can get this kind of in-depth critiquing for the very reasonable price of a return crit?
- You get to find out where you are as a writer. What your strengths & weaknesses are, what stuff you need to work on, what your comfort zones are and where you need to challenge yourself to step out of them.
- As per my answer to Q 4, you also get to hone your story critiquing skills, which you can then apply to your own work.
- This last one is maybe not something people think about when considering joining a critiquing circle, but involvement in a community of writers is a big part of what makes this an invaluable experience. The guys in our crit group know stuff about stuff I’ve never even thought about. And it’s difficult to describe the great feeling you get when you finish a truly awesome manuscript and you imagine being able to see it in a bookshop somewhere and think ‘I knew that when it was just and RTF doc. I helped that get there.’ *Goosebumps*.
Regarding points 3 & 4 above – as you can see, you don’t even have to have a manuscript for others to critique to benefit from joining a crit circle. We’ve got a couple of members who are there just to give us ‘bonus crits’, presumably for similar reasons.
Q: What are your future plans both for the novel you submitted and other novels ‘in the works’?
Publication followed by the accumulation of enormous wealth, obviously.
Seriously, publication is absolutely the goal. Or, more accurately, having a manuscript that is so good that someone wants to publish it.
The idea of creating a story that someone else can lose themselves in makes me feel euphoric.
On the other hand, I’m fairly risk averse, and the idea of having something out there with my name on it that is substandard makes me want to crawl under the bedclothes and hide.
As I said, I’ve had some great feedback on the story I submitted to the group that is generating some good ideas (I can tell because they feel right), so my first goal is to work all that into a second draft.
I’ve got a couple of other novels (um, four) on the go in various stages of completion, so my second goal is to finish the first draft of the next one and submit that to next year’s crit group!
I have vague fantasies about trying to complete a new first draft each year, but that might require giving up work and renouncing my family, so maybe not. Maybe every two years.
Leife lives in Canberra with her husband and two children. She fits in her writing around looking after the kids, and almost full-time job in the public service, baking yummy treats and playing the fiddle (badly). She’s also struggling against a recent addiction to Pintrest. She’s been making up stories ever since she can remember. She is fascinated by fairy tales and folk tales and frequently
steals weaves elements of these into her writing. Her first published story, ‘The tether of time’, appeared in Winds of Change in 2011. She has painted her house turquoise.