Friday, December 10, 2010

Shaking it Up

Sometimes a piece gets stuck. I see it one way. I've always seen it that way. And I can't see it any other way.

But then an editor writes back and says she'd like to see it a different way.

First Reaction: Excitement!!! She'd like to see it!

Second Reaction: Terror! How can I change it??? It's been the first way so long, I just can't see how.

That's when a great critique group comes in handy!

They read my stuck words and see where action is needed. What scenes are critical? What scenes aren't? Where is the tension good? Where is the tension missing? Where do I need to shake things up?

After a round of feedback like that, I admit I can sometimes feel overwhelmed. But then the possibilities begin to percolate in my brain. What if I cut that character? What if I changed that ending?

And suddenly I'm scribbling away and I can't stop. I revise once. Then again and again. I'm unstuck and I can't stop! Hurray!

Thanks, guys!

So, how does your critique / revision process work?


  1. It IS hard to look at things from a different perspective. I recall an experience wherein an editor asked me to change the whole novel from first person to third. EEK! I was so overwhelmed but I did it and it really made a difference. That book never sold, but I really did learn about first vs. third person and I think the book that eventually did sell still benefited from that lesson.

  2. Brianna,

    I loved the concept of "shaking it up." I have a writer-friend who read something I'd written and told me she was going to give me permission to be bad. It was her humorous way of trying to get me to add tension to the story. I loved the way she articulated it. Making it personal also made it easier to remember in later situations.

    Linda A.

  3. Yes, yes, to a good critique group! Mine have "unstuck" me many a time. You don't take all the ideas, but in a good group there are always a few that send you in the right direction. Can't imagine doing this alone!

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys!

    Tess-- Making a change so deliberately is teaching me a lot too. As I attempt to switch my manuscript from easy reader to picture book, I am really forced to think about what makes a picture book work (and not work :o)).

    Linda-- What wonderful advice! And it's fantastic that your friend stated it in such a way that you continue to remember it!

    Gale-- I agree! I can't imagine doing this alone! (And, as I'm sure you've seen, one of your wonderful ideas was incredibly helpful in my latest revision. Thanks!!!)

  5. I'm going through that very situation right now wondering which way to go. Critique group to the rescue for sure. They can shake things up, but in the end, it's still me.