Thursday, August 7, 2008

Through My Readers' Eyes

Have you ever written and re-written a manuscript so many times that you don't think there can possibly be any substantive changes left to make? I know I have.

At that point, the manuscript must be as good as I can possibly make it. Right?

Well maybe not.

I recently hit one of those "writing walls" with my new middle grade. I had worked tremendously hard on my narrator's voice, struggling over getting each and every word just right.

I knew there had to be changes left to make. But what were they?

I had no idea. Time to bring the manuscript to my amazing critique group.

What would they think? I had no idea. But I knew they would be able to see it with a fresh set of eyes. And a fresh set of eyes was exactly what I needed.

By the end of listening to the critiques around the table (and the ones that came in via email from the writers who couldn't attend the meeting), I had a whole new perspective on my manuscript. (Thanks guys!) I realized that while I thought I was being perfectly clear about what I intended my central conflict to be, my readers felt differently.

Actually, they thought they knew what the main conflict was. It's just that what they thought was the main conflict... wasn't. Their comments and questions showed me that I need to do some major re-writing of my opening to let my readers quickly and easily determine the main plot and the subplot of my story.

Critiques like this used to frustrate me. Why couldn't the story just be done already? But that's not the way I feel now.

No. Now critiques like this get my mind whirling with possibilities. It won't be easy to make the revisions I have in mind. But by the time I'm done with them, I should have a much better manuscript. And that's the most exciting possibility of all.


  1. So bravo to a good critique group!
    If they couldn't identify your intended conflict clearly, you've been saved from a gruesome scene: an editor quickly tossing your story aside.

    Revision=Hope. As Katherine Paterson once said, "I love revisions. Where else in life can spilled milk be transformed into ice cream?"

  2. Sometimes as authors we can't see the forest for the trees! I'm glad we could help. I'll be looking for the same help when I bring my new mss in September.

  3. I can't wait to read the revision! I love those eye-opening critique sessions. Now if I could just get my butt back in the chair so I could line myself up for one.