Moving On and Self-Critique

I can’t believe how much easier this new book is to write than the DD. What does that mean? What? I have no stinking idea.

Last week I met with my critique group. Every year or two we change things up and we’ve done that again. We’re now going to be a Go Out to Eat group. And we’re going to critique whole novels instead of just chapters–which is what we sort of did before. So, last week at our first restaurant, Cheri Earl (who is Miss Bossy of the group) wrote down our goals for us. No, she didn’t tell us what to do. We told her what we wanted to accomplish before the next time we met and et (et is Southern for eat.). I decided I wanted to write so many words a day on this new piece. Then I re-decided that I wanted to write so many scenes. Ten a day, I said later on Facebook, that’s all I ask. Ten scenes a day. Woot woot! (BTW, I accomplished this goal on Friday.)

Anyway.

I know that while writing this new book (which will be banned by some Christians because of the title), I am going to be checking over my a final draft of  MILES FROM ORDINARY (which comes out in March of next year, I think) and I will also have to do major rewrites on the DD. So, even though I am on to a new book (I am so glad that draft is off to my editor!!!!), I am still in editing mode. Or I will be again. Soon.

I thought I’d give a few hints that help me when I’m going through a novel.

Steps for Good Self-Critique
1. read silently on computer screen
2. read out loud from screen
3. print and read silently, making comments on the paper as you go
4. print and read out loud, continue to make comments to yourself
5. have someone else read out loud where you can hear  when they make mistakes (Why are they stumbling? Why is the read not going smoothly? Listen and take note of this. It’s important.)
6. get final comments by another individual you trust to do a good job

People ask if I do this, and yes. Yes, I do. I go through all these steps. I want whatever I am sending to my editor to be in its best possible shape.

I’ve heard people say, “Oh, I don’t have to worry about misspellings (or which ever mistake they are excusing). That’s what an editor is supposed to do.”

I have two things to say to that. The first is an editor WANTS to read the cleanest draft she can get her hands on. The truth is, while an editor is looking for the next book she can fall in love with and publish, she is trained to set a book aside the moment she is no longer interested–or as soon as a book feels unprofessional to her. I had an acquisitions editor tell me he didn’t even open a book because he didn’t like the title.

The second thing is this–I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, but I am reading more and more books that have problems that an editor should have caught. Plots holes, places an author could have strengthened the story more, and I just read one book that is full of tense problems. Tense problems. Like present tense AND past tense in the same paragraph. And this was a famous author–who’s won lots of big awards.

Authors need to make sure the books they hand over to their editors are as clean as possible. No–most editors aren’t messing up on this kind of stuff–but more and more are. And can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to see that in a book you’d written? Mistakes? Or to have someone point out how your plot could have been stronger if you had done whatever? (And believe you me, people do this. To your face.)

I think I mentioned this before– A writer once told me that she didn’t need to clean up her writing because the genre she writes for excuses bad writing. All I could do was just blink. When I finally caught my breath, I said, “But don’t you want this to be the best book you can write?”

(Sigh.)

And I’ve said this before, too, but one of the main reasons Ann Dee and I started this blog was because we wanted to maybe be able to help people who want to publish. I hope our hints have helped you improve your writing. Next week, I’m going to start through a checklist of things you can look for as you write your masterpieces so your novels are as clean as they can be.

Oh, and Douglas C.? I’m going to see if I can get an answer for you, too.

7 Comments

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7 responses to “Moving On and Self-Critique

  1. You seriously wrote 10 scenes in one day? I wrote 2 and thought I did well. How thick are your scenes when you write them? Mine are medium size. Meaning, I will go back and beef it up but the major elements are there.

    And what kind of naughty title do you have that Christians will want to ban your book? Ha ha, you’re such a rebel. I’m glad it’s coming fast for you. That is such a great feeling.

    p.s. Your blog has helped me. Thank you.

  2. You know, Cuz, that’s one of the many reasons I like and respect you. You push yourself to a high standard of quality and take full responsiblity for every single word you write, and you have a pretty good time on that journey as well. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the post! Always helpful!

  4. Yay, steps to follow! Thank you.

    Hah, I comfort myself by saying that the nitty-gritty grammar bits that I don’t understand will receive some assistance by an agent or editor, but even with that, they make /you/ do the edits, don’t they? Why waste everyone’s time when you can get it as close to correct the first time through? Then they won’t have to worry about little things and can move onto the bigger things that make it better.

    I think I’m trying to just restate what you said so much better up in your post. Hum.

    In short: I agree.

  5. Hi Carol! I’m sister to Katherine Gee, and she has told me so much about you. I’m glad to discover your blog. Thank you for the writing tips.

    Cheri Earl was one of my favorite teachers at BYU! Please tell her hello from Tiffany Lewis.

  6. Angie

    You told our class about that list at conference this year and the only one I hadn’t done was have someone else read it aloud. My amazing husband took a bullet and read a chapter aloud every night. It was incredible how many little things you notice! It was the best advice ever, and we caught so many things that needed tweaked that I never would have noticed otherwise.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your wisdom with us!

  7. Carol, you’re the best. I’m so grateful that you and Ann Dee and Ally have decided to share your wisdom with us. We can learn so much from you! My friend and colleague went over a piece of short fiction last night so I could work on revisions this week and she had fun pointing out when it flowed perfectly and the times when it fell on its face. The read-aloud steps are very important! Thankyou thankyou!

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