I brought the first 3,000 words of my Viking naval short story to my critique group and they honed in on the exact things that were bothering me about it (but that I couldn’t see how to fix) and pointed to solutions.
I went into tonight’s critique with a lot of foreboding because I knew the story wasn’t working and I couldn’t figure out why. And I didn’t have time to rewrite it again. They pointed out the problems with blocking and flow, along with a lack of tight emotional relationships between the characters. I have a really good feel now for how I want to change this.
The group is truly helpful. Each person has a particular way of perceiving a text so even when there is unanimity on what they think is wrong, they see it through a different lens. One of them is quite good at feeling his way through language and his recommendations are always helpful to me.
Another has expertise in history and a real love for how battles work. Plus a serious lack of patience when things don’t start up quickly. His voice comes clear in my mind and I find myself asking, “Where does this story actually start? You know he’s going to notice that, right?”
A third almost always surprises me with his insights and ways of looking at things, and not just on my stories. His brain is slippery, sliding into connections I don’t see until he points them out.
There is one other regular attendee. He generally sees things closest to the way I do, so it is frequently cheering when he understands what I am trying to lay down. And conversely I know if he doesn’t get it or doesn’t like it, I have some work to do. (Not that everyone needs to like what I write.)
They are all gamers, so they are quick to notice when blocking is badly done. This contrasts nicely with my romance group which frequently doesn’t notice the blocking at all. (Which is fine. They notice other things.)
The group agreed that they liked where the story was heading. When all was said and done, I felt good at the end of our session. Don’t get me wrong, the story is a hot mess, but at least I know where the mess is and how to clean it up now.
The plan for tomorrow and the next day is to revise the story and then send it to Mia, my editor. Normally I would ask Steve to read it first, but he is slammed with work. He’s trying to get his book to the publisher in the next few days.
Our internet connection is mostly back online and I’ve got a new unlimited data plan for my phone as a back up. So I think we’ll be ok with connectivity for a while, too.
And that’s all, friends. I really appreciate those of you who’ve read through what must seem like crazy detailed discussions of this story as I puzzled my way through. At this point I think I’ve got what I need to make this work. Onward!
Be well, friends!