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Back To The Drawing Board


I tried to research this saying to see where it came from…but after 15 minutes of searching, I figured it’s not that important. We all know what it means…starting over, reworking.

That’s where I’m at with Safe In Enemy Arms.

I got the crit back on Safe from my agent last week and I’ve been mulling it over. I’ve found, after years and years of receiving crits, you really have to do that. Not all of the comments make immediate sense. Some seem downright ludicrous. Many may make you mutter, “They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

No doubt about it, critisism is tough to take. Especially on something you’ve put so much time and effort and parts of yourself into.

But I’ve also found, after years and years of receiving crits, that every comment is valuable.

There are three kinds of comments:
  • 1… Those that make immediate sense. You slap a palm to your forehead and say, “Jeez. What was I thinking? I really need to fix that. Thank God for crit partners.” (or agents, or editors, or whoever read you work and found the glaring problem.
  • 2… Those that make you quirk your head and say, “I don’t get it.” or “Where did that come from.”
  • 3… Those that make you shake your head and say, “She really doesn’t get it. If I change that, I have to change the whole theme of the book, or completely redraw characters, or… ” You get the idea.
We all wish the first type of comment were the only ones we got, because those are typically easy to fix–that is if you’ve executed your plot, characterization, theme, etc. adequately to begin with. A twist here, a tweak there, wha-la. Repair complete.

The second type take a little more consideration, a reread of the work, a twist of perspective while viewing that work. These comments are very valuable. They show us that what we wrote didn’t come off as we’d planned, which means we need to go back and clarify, reword, substantiate, layer and/or deepen the elements surrounding that portion of our story.

And even the third type are valuable. Even if, after thorough consideration, you decide that a particular comment doesn’t fit your work or your voice or your story, that the critiquer truly didn’t get it, and set that comment aside, you’ve validated your purpose. You’ve analyzed and found your original direction exactly what you intended.

After musing over my agent’s comments on the manuscript, I twirled ideas and remedies around in my head a few days. I’ve reread her comments at least 4 times and every time I read them, the purpose of each becomes clearer, and I marvel at her ability to see so deeply into the work.

For a manuscript I thought was really ready, she’s shown me ways to clarify and deepen the story, the plot and the characters.

I have a long way to go. These revisions will be another extensive piece of work. But as long the story is more complete, tighter and richer, its worth every minute. And even if it doesn’t sell after I’ve completed the revisions, I’ve taken another step toward bettering my craft, understanding my characters, developing story structure.

And that’s what it’s all about (I try to remind myself often)–growing, learning, enjoying the journey.

What do you think–about critiques, about revisions, about the power of the writing journey?

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