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|A few months ago, I joined a writer's critique group. We meet once a month, and tonight was our third meeting.
We each emailed the others the first several chapters of whatever book we're working on. I sent the first two chapters of my 2005 NaNoWriMo novel I finally finished a few weeks ago. Before we met, we were supposed to critique all the submissions and discuss them during the meeting.
Being typical procrastinator me, of the three sent to me, I completed one and half of another. I honestly thought I had the time, but life intruded and I couldn't.
One thing I like about every member of this group is they are brutally honest. That's why I titled this entry the way I did. They took my story apart!
I cringed a few times, but then let my brain take control, and silenced my emotional reactions. Most of the suggestions were spot on!
The problem, typically, with first drafts is I'm feeling my way through the story. The background isn't fully developed, nor the characters. Characters did things they shouldn't or the 'voice' changed with little to no reason. The back story was also -- anemic describes it best. Too many unanswered questions. I didn't know this until everyone pointed all this out to me.
Some of their concerns and questions I do answer later in the story - some as late as half-way through the story. What excited and even thrilled me is how they all wanted to read on.
I also now want to tackle the story again! But first, I need to develop the back story more. With my first novel (the one I'm editing now), I wrote a 50 page "history" book on how this particular 'universe' came into being. That was the best tool I had to make sure things progressed in a way that made sense all throughout the story. Keeping continuity was easy for the most part.
This novel, tentatively titled "The Red Dagger", takes place on two different worlds. There's a lot of politics going on, so I need to write another "history" book on each one of these very different worlds. I can then rewrite my second draft placing some of that pertinent history within the pages to help the reader understand why certain things happen the way they do. It'll also help character development, because based on that history, they have to act in very specific ways. Any deviation, and the story, or the character, won't make sense.
Though not a big fan of history (I despise historical research which is why I chose science fiction as my main genre), creating one from scratch titillates my creative mind. In writing the book alone, the picture of that history continued to clarify. All I have to do is get it down on paper.
The thing of it is that makes this simultaneously exciting and daunting, is I see way more books coming out of this than the one I now have. We're not talking trilogy here, but an entire series based on a slew of characters both conceived and as yet unconceived.
But! None of this will happen until I finish rewriting my first novel. That one takes precedence over anything else I write - except for the occasional blog entry, of course.