I wrote a few weeks ago of my hesitancy to get my work critiqued. I am not some haughty author who thinks his work is above reproach. I just have misgivings about certain authors I have talked to even having a clue about the kind of material I write. I welcome critiques from a good source, but I am leery of certain sources. Add in the fact that my day job is on a swing shift schedule, and that shoots down all those evening sessions so many writers groups love.
But I am open to having my work hammered, praised, helped, prodded and poked. Nothing made me more interested in that than a critique I received on my first novel when I entered the Pikes Peak Writers Conference fiction contest. I received two critiques, and one of them was a gem. The review came from someone with lots of experience in the trade, and I suspect it was an agent or an editor with a publishing house. He/she was very detailed, which is great. Here's a capsule look at the review:
1. You take too long to establish flow of action at the start of your novel. Pick up the pace.
2. Your use of two story lines is confusing. If you are going to use that method, it has to be PERFECT to make it work.
3. You write well, and in some instances very well, but you need to strip away the extra stuff.
4. You either don't get your work critiqued, or you choose not to heed the advice you get. Change that.
There were other small points, like certain word usage in a sentence, but those were just normal writer-editor issues. Here's what the critique has persuaded me to do:
1. Find ways to get critiques done even with my swing-shift schedule. I am attending the Pikes Peak conference again this year, and I will explore my options with the group's leaders while I am there.
2. Put my first novel on the back burner. My use of two story lines needs to be refined. I will pick up that novel and rework it in the future, and I will trim down the use of the second story line to avoid confusion.
3. Channel my energies into my second novel and get it finalized so I can pitch it at PPWC. I am into the edit/rewrite phase, so that is a very reachable goal. This novel doesn't suffer from slow development at the start, and it has a nice, single story line. I add lots of twists and turns, of course, but it is a much more focused work. I believe it also achieves one goal of any agent or publishing house: It is commercially viable. Now I have to convince an agent that that's the truth.