Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Critique Conversations (and Why You Should Be Having Them)

I'm currently in the middle of the last stages of editing my next book release, and it's always a wild and crazy ride. (Can I really say that? I'm only on my 3rd release, and it's the first novel...Hmmm...a question to ponder later.) I'm always perplexed as to whether I'm going to get this done or not.

Graphic Conversation
Photo by Marc Wathieu
Of course, that's probably because when I receive the critiques back from those I have editing my projects, I always have a ton of questions. Inevitably, this means a long, drawn out conversation about the nuances behind a scene, areas I need to deepen or strengthen, and places I should seriously consider changing. I muse back and forth with those helping me about how to do something without breaking the integrity of the rest of the book, how someone is to be related to someone else if I take another person out of the story, and ask myself the deeper meaning behind the relationships of the characters I've created.

For instance, in the project I'm about to release, I had a character who murdered his wife. Note the "had" part of that whole business? After a long, drawn out e-mail exchange, I decide that I needed to dump the husband. But the now-single lady still had to die--it was kinda the point of the story. The solution was to make another character I already had on the outs do double duty and become the killer. It was tricky business, and I'm still keeping my original story in mostly-pristine condition for comparison in the future, but even a few weeks out from releasing it, I can see this is a change for the better.

This would probably never have happened on my own, and definitely not had I asked questions about my friend's critique, although she had suggested it. Without her collaboration, I probably wouldn't have arrived at the solution I did.

And that's why when you get a critique back, you should take the time to read it and dig in. Before I ever published a book, I did this with members of my local critique group. One member in particular and I would sit down for coffee and danish at the Panera Bread between our houses, and we'd talk for hours about each others' projects, discussing different points.

Just when you do it over e-mail, the conversation is (usually) more to-the-point. Even so, in the latest round, I needed to print out the discussion for various reasons, and it was still 17 pages long...and that wasn't even all of it!

Even though the better part of this discussion took well over a week--and it's still ongoing--I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not only am I learning a great deal more about the craft of writing, I'm coming out the other side with a better story. One I hope will delight my readers as much as it's delighted me to write.

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Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador. She is the author of Emergence , Retaliation and Capitulation, novellas in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.

She blogs sporadically at LibertySpeidel.com.
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1 comment:

  1. Great stuff. Good books are often great collaborations between the author and their editor. Someone once said it was like singing a duet. One has the melody and one has the harmony. Both parts are important and it would not be the same without the two working closely together.

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