Monday, January 30, 2017

Welcome the "pain" of critical reviews

I read an unbelievable statement by an author last week. She said she hated the process of having friends and cohorts read a draft of her manuscript because it meant part of her creation would be disliked and often criticized. She didn't like that she might have to alter her original content. I have one message for that author.

Your material isn't without blemish, dearie.

Neither is mine, and that's why I welcome the input of my precious beta readers. My work needs to be knocked around, criticized, and then reshaped because of their astute observations. Any author who believes otherwise is delusional. As Stephen King eloquently says, your first draft always sucks.

This leads me to another major revelation. Going into a second draft forces a second, third and even fourth revision, which causes me to review the anchor points of my writing. My latest work is a solid story with good characters, and a few surprises are thrown in. I received excellent feedback from my beta readers on characters and content. I am nearing the end of my first revision to formulate my second draft, and I see the need to do a second revision. Why? I see inconsistencies (some of them highlighted by my beta readers) and a need to strengthen tension throughout the novel. I also see a need to delineate my main points better and not be wishy-washy. What happens when I finish this second revision? I might see the need for a third.

Now, I will reach a point at which I feel I have a good second draft. What will I do? I will approach three other friends and cohorts to read this draft. None of my first-draft beta readers will be invited for this phase. Why? I want fresh eyes who will look at my work as a new creation they are encountering. I don't want readers familiar with the story line and resolution to encounter sections and be tempted to skim through them. I also will ask three people who have either been beta readers for one of my earlier works or those who are intimately familiar with current literary culture. I want critics who will be honest and take me to task. Because I will be asking just three readers to help, I won't approach anyone who will fail to do the work. If they have reservations about reading during a busy work schedule, for example, I will turn to someone else.

What happens after that? I think I have a manuscript that is ready for review by a literary agent. That entails the creation of a query letter (another major component any author must do well) and a synopsis (both short ... no more than two pages ... or long ... usually no more than four pages). If an agent accepts my work for representation, there will be another round of revisions based on that agent's evaluation. If that agent sells my work to a publishing house, I have another round of revisions based on a publishing house's editor's input.

The process continues, and I regard that as a good thing. My novel is getting better with each step. Hey, we should do that with all parts of our lives. My life isn't without blemish, dearie.