Wednesday, July 2, 2014

She Really Needs A Name

     Dungeon is under the knife -- meaning the book is in the process of being critiqued and corrected.  I asked a friend to read it for me, and she is awesome.  For too long, I had stared at my book -- knowing that there were multiple things that needed fixing and not quite knowing how to go about it  -- or knowing what to do but then second-guessing myself.  I needed help...either that or perhaps another 5 years of maturity under my belt...and I didn't want to wait 5 years.
    It's incredibly humbling to see all the red scribbled over my manuscript...and even more humbling to know that the critique is absolutely right.  But that's not the strongest feeling that comes to me as I read through her red marks.  The strongest feeling is


     That may sound odd to say, but it is true.  The fact that she puts her finger right on these nebulous things that have been bothering me feels really good.
     Here's an analogy: let's say you have a knot in your back -- you know, you lifted something heavy or slept funny, and now the muscles in your back have knotted up.  It hurts and its uncomfortable, but you can't quite work the knot out yourself.
     And then somebody comes along and rubs your back and says "oh, there's a knot here" and then presses or rubs on it in just the right way and the muscle releases.  Ahhhh, that feels so much better.

     Another equally good analogy would be if somebody found a splinter and pulled it out.

     That's what I feel like when she says something like "you switched point-of-view unexpectedly here, and it yanks the reader out of the story."  Ahhhh.  Whew.

Vintage Brass and Crystal Scale of Justice by vintagequeen.
via Pinterest
     Here's another thing I like about her critiquing: she has found a balance between teaching and taking-over-my-book.  In other words, I don't feel like SHE is rewriting my book.  [This may sound selfish and egotistical, but I still want my book to be mine when I am done.]  At the same time, she gives me instructions so that I have something to go on.  Let me show you what I mean:

     "The paragraph you had written was awkward.  Here is a better way to say it...(insert a completely rewritten paragraph penned by the critiquer)."

     "This paragraph is awkward."

     "Stop using passive voice (You have 'was' four times in the past 3 sentences.  That's no good.). 
     Your description is entirely based on sight.  Draw your picture using all five senses.  I want to know how the camp sounds, smells, feels, and tastes.
     Also, take advantage of this passage to show us more of your character's personality.  How does she react to this scene?"
Vintage Brass and Crystal Scale of Justice by vintagequeen.
via Pinterest
     There is another thing that critiquers have to balance: praise and criticism.  Different writers will probably have different opinions on a "proper" balance.  I personally like criticism.  Too much praise makes me wonder if you are being sincere or if you feel that my book is so horrible that you are trying to cheer me up with the positives.  Give me the criticism -- that's why I asked you to read the book -- so I can fix it.
     Which brings me to the part where the balance is affected for me: does the critiquer believe I can fix it?  To me, when someone says "this is bad - fix it!" then it is a compliment because they believe I can fix it.  You can give me all the criticism in the world if it is coupled with this subtle acknowledgement of my potential.  It is when somebody says "yeah, okay, never mind, it's good enough," that I feel like they think they are pacifying someone who can't get any better at their craft.
     With all that being said, I feel like my friend is giving me the perfect balance of praise and criticism.  The occasional "hahaha" or "now we're getting somewhere" are welcome boosts as well as a way to highlight examples of what she is looking for.  I can look at it and say, "oh, yes, I see how this paragraph was better than that other one.  I can aim for that same level of excellence everywhere."
     This is my first time having anyone outside my family look over my work and critique it for me.  It is not as scary as I thought it would be, and I am so grateful for the work my friend is doing.  I don't think I would have felt this way 5 years ago.  I hardly told anyone I wrote -- let alone allowed them to see my work.  But we grow and learn.  And this came at a good time for me.

     Those of you who have been following my princess on her dungeon quest know that she is only known in the story as "the princess."  Well, you should know that this is about to change.  As my critiquer is reading my story, she has said more than once:

"She really needs a name."

And so one will be forthcoming very soon.  Please stand by.

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