I find critiquing other people's work really hard. It's easy to spot a clumsy sentence, a spelling mistake, some poor punctuation. The rest is hard. For a start I'm not that positive. I worry that I'm too direct and don't highlight the good stuff enough. If I like something, great, but then I find it hard to focus on what could be better. If I think something is not good, I find it really hard to find something good in it and I find it really hard to put my finger on what it is that isn't working.
So for my return to the critique group there were five pieces to work on from a picture book to an adult short story. Now, my experience of picture books is limited to what I read to my two year old. Faced with these five hundred odd words I felt myself beginning to enter a blind panic. And then I realised that actually my experience was exactly what I needed. What are the things that annoy me when I'm reading to the bubba and what do I like? I managed to add a few comments that I hope are useful.
The ones that were OK or I really liked, made me realise that one reading was not enough, you miss stuff. So I printed it out really small and shoved it in my bag to read on the bus. The distance between the beginning of the day and the end meant I gave each piece a different reading and I hope some useful critique.
Now the piece that was not so good also sent me into a bit of a tailspin. Something was not working, something was making an otherwise intriguing story a bit wrong, but I could not for the life of me put my finger on it. What was it? What wasn't working? I did a bit of an internet search and found Jody Hedlund's blog. I find myself guilty of a couple of the crimes she names, but I am thankful that she gave me a couple of pointers and there I was, able to put some relevant comments onto the document.
To ease me back into the group, I got the Frog to check my first chapter so I knew what worked and didn't. The Frog was pretty spot on, but the thing he didn't have a problem with was the shifting points of view, but I think I know how to fix it now.
Which brings me neatly to the last thing I want to talk about tonight. After NaNo I had a plan. The wip grant? Does that ring a bell? And have you noticed how I'm not exactly mentioning it lately. Well, you see, it seems that the act of writing a synopsis and a query letter is just as difficult as writing a book. Not to mention the fact that that first chapter needs to be mind blowingly brilliant. And I just can't see it all happening before February, but by next February, maybe. So to new goals. Writer Unboxed lists seven tasks to get you from the first to the second draft. I have to confess that out of the seven tasks I am focussing on only one of the them. The goal setting one. I've always been a goal setting kind of girl, so that one speaks to me above the others right now. So, here are the new goals:
- I'm looking at NaNo as a half draft rather than a first draft. Usually I do a quick edit straight away and I didn't do that in November, so this is the quick edit.
- The Frog is my beta reader for EVERY chapter.
- The critique group will get whatever chapter I am working on when we next meet.
- When first/revised draft is ready I will ask ONE person to read and critique it.
- Then I will stick it into a drawer and write the first draft of the millionth version of Sands of Time (which was always a naff title). In fact I've been kind of writing it already, while I've been on the bus on the way to work... I had to.