End of a Critique
Tonight I will attend the eighth and final weekly meeting of the small group critiquing my novel. The process is of course not officially over until tonight, but I write Thursday afternoon blog posts, so this will have to do.
It has been a thoroughly rewarding experience. With all do respect to people who claim that they write only for themselves and don’t care if their fiction is ever read, I myself write to be read at some point, and having several fellow writers read my novel and tell me what they thought of it has caused a paradigm shift in how I am viewing the work myself.
To begin with, on the whole they enjoyed it more than I thought they would. That is not a reflection on the particular people involved, nor is it a reflection on my own confidence in the novel. I just was pleasantly surprised that it had the impact that it had as early on in the narrative as it did. That alone made it worth submitting it to the group.
Then there is the feedback. Only a few observations from the group have been, in my view, unusable or inconsistent with what I want the novel to be. The vast, VAST majority of comments and suggestions made have served only to enhance the next draft. I’d say roughly 85% of what they shared with me will at least in part make its way into the next draft. (I plan to have only maybe two more drafts total.)
In talking about my characters each week, I think they’ve actually come more alive even to me, the author. I always believed in them, by and large, but having them reflected back at me from those who have not spend so much time with them added a new dimension to what they are all about. They feel even more alive to me as a result of this process. These eight weeks have injected something into the work, and into my perspective on it that I would not have gotten alone.
Of course tonight, in a way, I am more nervous than I was when the whole thing began two months ago, because the others will be offering their views on the final punch. The lasting impression. So I don’t know how that will come about, but I doubt they will suddenly disappoint after all this time being so helpful.
I will both in a sense miss these sessions, as well as be relieved that they are over. Even when helpful it can be a tad draining for me to open up my work like this. But now that I have done it with the novel, I know I will be doing it again in the future, when I have another novel ready to go. The process and the people both combined to make a memorable experience. If you have a work in progress and have a chance for a group, (as opposed to just one person at a time) read it and offer thoughts, I recommend you do so. Great things can happen.