Rethinking Everything or Critique Hell 101

Note: Please read all the way through this blog before deciding that I’m a whiny emo kid in a 34-year-old woman’s body and should never, ever be a writer. Thanks. πŸ˜‰

I have recently returned to the wonderful forums at AbsoluteWrite, where writers of all kinds go for support, laughter, encouragement and critiques. Just the other day I finally reached fifty posts, the magical number which a member must have in order to post their work for critique. Unlike many writers, I was not at all concerned about posting my work. After all, I’ve been very good about receiving constructive criticism for a long time now. In fact, I wanted it so that I could make my book even better. I welcomed it. I was excited.

But then I got what I asked for.

Now, I expected specific comments on certain areas: pace, dialogue, syntax, etc. Things I could go in and fix fairly easily. I even expected people to be somewhat confused, and, in fact, hoped they would be so I would know what needed more explaining and/or what I forgot to mention because I’m too close to the story. What I didn’t expect, however, was to be told I needed to change things integral to the story, such as making Trevor and Tabitha older, or making Tabitha younger than Trevor (“twins are confusing unless one is a mute”), or that the twins weren’t worried enough / there wasn’t enough tension / there wasn’t enough action. The latter issues I have been concerned about f0r a while and was very proud of upping the ante of in my latest chapters (which were the ones I posted). And lastly, they said not to make it a series… not… to… make… it… a… series…

AAAAHHHHH! I can”t make the twins older! That would ruin everything! Kids and Teens are at war in Nil, and the twins are supposed to be KIDS! And I suck at writing for teens! It always feels too immature or too mature no matter what I do!This isn’t YA for Pete’s sake! And I have to make them twins. I mean, they are twins! They told me that from the very beginning! Heck, everyone at the conference I went to in September said that twins was a great idea, even one that they liked the most! As for my tension, well damnit! I already jacked it up tenfold! What do you people want from me? And-it-has-to-be-a-series-because-there’s-too-freeking-much-to-pack-into-one-book-and-that-would-bore-me-to-tears-because-I. Only. WRITE. SERIES!

AAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And that, my friends, is what we call a total critique breakdown.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly quiet about it either. While I didn’t scream and yell at my gracious critters, I did ask a few too many questions in a little too much of a defensive tone. (And for that, AbWrite fellows, I apologize… and have… profusely.) I can say I was tired or stressed or moody, and that would all be true, but knowing that, I should have also known better than to go over critiques in that frame of mind.

Now, a couple of days, a few more hours of sleep, and a gallon of Yerba Mate later, I can sit back and think about these critiques in a much more productive light, and as the gifts that they are.

And I can remind myself that I don’t have to take all of the advice I am given, either.

So what about making Trevor and Tabitha a little older? Is twelve really that old? Would it, in fact, possibly add to the tension of the story to have them be so close to turning Teen? And is it true, as my wonderful critter said, that middle grade readers would much rather read about a 12-year-old than a 10-year-old? Things to ponder…

And what about the twin thing? Nah… I think I’ll pass on that particular suggestion. Especially as it was given by only one critter.

And what about my tension? I feel I have upped the ante, but apparently not enough. Unfortunately, this issue is one I can’t fix alone as I myself can’t see it. I’ll need some help with it, and so I will ask of the critters who mentioned it, graciously and in the least defensive way I can (and in PM), how they feel would best raise the tension. This one might take a while… I’m almost certain it’s the whisper of a ghost that’s been haunting me since I started writing, one that says something is wrong but I can’t figure it out. Maybe this is the beginning of finally capturing the ghost.

Finally, I can’t make my entire series into one story. I have worked too hard and planned too much to do that. But what I can do is let The Crows’ Nest stand alone. My current ending gets close to that —Β  each book is already planned to be its own story-within-the-story — but the cliffhanger is a little too series-ish. I can pull back on that and sell the book to a publisher as one title. And if I believe in it as much as I need to, then this won’t harm the series at all. In fact, Book 1 will pave the way of interest for the rest!

And they did say nice things which I buried under my hurt at first: “it’s interesting”, “it’s exciting”, “it’s different and unique”, “I would keep reading”… Not to mention my current wonderful readers who love the first edition! I can’t forget you!

All this rambling about my own issues is to say, no matter how far along you are in your writing career, no matter how hard you work and how thick your skin grows, there will always be days where it feels best just to give up and walk away.

Never do that. You are a writer. You must write. No matter what.

And now I’m off to edit and make my already wonderful book a masterpiece… all thanks to a few wonderful critters who took the time out to backhand my ego. πŸ˜‰

2 Responses to “Rethinking Everything or Critique Hell 101”

  1. This here family LOVES series! We get all we can from the library. And our favorites we buy. And right now we are buying the Guts and Glory series. Well we have the first! and impatiently awaiting the second, and the rest. As for the age of the twins, it is perfect. Everyone in the family can enjoy it. Keep up the great work.

    • Thank you! I am so glad that you like “Guts and Glory”. I am revising The Crows’ Nest at the moment, but once that is complete, there will be no new editions until and unless I am picked up by a large House. Thank you again for your support, and please tell your friends and your kids’ friends! πŸ˜€

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