Saturday, March 26, 2011

Out-of-Order Critiquing

So, a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to take 5 pages of my novel to a critique session. It was a little bit different from previous sessions I had participated in, but it was a little refreshing too.

I had never had any critiquing-type of contact with any of the members in my group. I picked 5 pages that were a pretty important scene in my story, but was right in the middle of the book. When I handed the group my pages for them to read, they had absolutely no background, no character development, and no story line.

As one group member mentioned to me, it was kind of nice because then they had to critique my writing "based solely on its own merits."

It was nice, actually, because their involvement with the story (before and after this scene) did not color their judgments. And it was a unanimous concensus: show more; tell less.

Now, as I have admitted before, I am wordy, but I am trying to focus better on capturing my scenes in my writing. This critique group was good for me because it helped me realize that I am not there yet - especially in my crucial scenes. The group members suggested I use more dialog rather than telling the reader what the characters discussed. I'm not convinced on that point in this particular scene because I just finished a long dialog before these 5 pages and am going into another one after. But it let me know that my readers want to know/hear more from my characters too. so it provides food for thought.

I realized critiquing doesn't always have to be linear. In fact, it can be just as effective or helpful sometimes to break up your writing in your critique groups. The trick is learning from these jumbled segments and implementing the suggestions throughout the piece.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Simplicity

This is a plea for basic simplicity in writing. Too many authors think that using trendy buzzwords, inflated language, and complex constructions make them better writers. (This is particularly true in the academic world.) I believe that just the opposite is true. Instead, I respect the authors who can make a difficult topic, situation, or emotional response understandable to the reader. Anyone can look up a bunch of words and find a way to fit them into their writing. But very few can find understandable words to express complex ideas. Those are the real geniuses.

Now I'm not saying that everything should be written as "See Dick. See Jane. See Dick and Jane run." But I am saying that your content should come a long ways before your ego.