On Sunday, I attended my monthly critique group meeting. I’ve been part of this group since about 2011 or 2012, and it predates me by a couple of years at least. I’ve grown a lot as a writer thanks to the feedback I’ve received. Also thanks to the feedback I’ve given. Examining other writers’ work with a critical eye has helped me recognize some of the same problems in my own prose, and to stop making the same errors.
I haven’t grown as much as I could have. As I mentioned in the first post in this daily blog experiment, I have often been reluctant to take risks and show unpolished work to the group. As a result, I’ve robbed myself of opportunities by going months without a submission, or by submitting something I’d worked on so much that I’m reluctant to make changes when I do get feedback.
This month, I submitted a raw first draft: a short story of 1,300 words, warts and all. A character appeared in paragraph four, then vanished. Another character changes location from one paragraph to the next without covering the intervening space. (This is not a science fiction story.) The ending is simply the place where I stopped telling the story.
Previously, I would have held onto this story. Turning it in helped me realize that the internal dialogue that the protagonist carries on is not distracting, as I’d feared it would be. Had I revised the story before turning it in, I probably would have edited that element out. In fact, my group gave me suggestions for a stronger ending that relies on the fact of the that internal dialogue. And one of my partners shines when she slices my paragraphs to ribbons, and rewords and reorganizes them. I often don’t like the exact suggestions she makes—our writing styles are so vastly different—but the changes she makes often give me fresh perspective on how the words are recieved, and the next draft will be much stronger.
If I ever do manage to have a novel published, it will be a direct result of this group’s advice.