Monday, August 2, 2010

Press On or Fall Back

No hurtle is insurmountable, or so it’s said. Today, I muse about the importance of having “critique buddies.” If we show our work to anyone and they say “that’s nice” then we have been critiqued. Those simple words may not convey much enlightenment, but it still counts to a point. What I really want to talk about today is having someone that can be overtly honest with you about your craft and story.

For the past few months, I’ve worked at a feverish pace. Originally, my goal was to complete the first draft of my WIP by the end of July. Then, I pushed it back to the end of August. Now, I’m thinking Christmas is sounding really good. Why?

Well, life gets in the way sometimes, but more importantly, I found a hole in my story. I had relied too much on coincidence (IMHO) to bring the characters into the climactically emotional ending. Not wanting to be one for cliché (any more than necessary), it’s forced me to rethink the ending of my novel – or more precisely how the characters move from the middle to the end – the all important end of the second act.

Would things happen the way I originally envisioned so many months ago? Some of the original outline still rings true, some does not. For example, I removed one of the lead characters, so that changes the dynamics of the ending. The motivations of specific characters are slightly different than I had expected – usually more layered and complex than intended.

This brings me to a point where I have two choices: Leave what’s come before and forge a new, more self-motivated finale with the characters as they are OR go back and change their motivations to reach the end as I originally wanted them.

Ultimately, it came down to a decision which could go either way. Both options would be good, but “there can be only one.”

I have muddled around and wrestled with this issue for a couple of days, now. What finally brings me out of this “writer’s block” situation is the insight that only a critique buddy could offer. I’m lucky enough to have a couple such friends. Through hours of mulling over the possibilities this weekend and what’s come in the story before this point, they’ve given me a new direction that works much better than the original.

Will this change the end of the story? No. In fact, I’ll be back on track with the original outline in a few thousand words. But those words lead to the end of the second act and beginning of the all important climax. It’s slow going to ensure every critical detail is remembered while the tension builds for the final showdown.

Q4U: Do you have someone who’s honest enough to tell you when the story’s not working? Are you that person for someone else? Does it strengthen your story or just slow you down?


  1. Actually, the crit/reading partner topic has been in my blog the last two months.

    One thing about changes, especially major ones like removing a character, is the ripple effect...all those slight modifications that need to be ironed out that otherwise leave a rough flow to the story. In the end, the extra work is 'usually' worth it.

  2. I have a great beta who is extremely honest with me. I like to think I'm honest, but sometimes I chicken out and hedge and haw around the truth. Of course, that also depends on who I'm critting. Some people take all sorts of feedback very well, while others get mad any time you suggest they make changes.

    By the way, I'm hosting a blogfest/contest on my blog. It's chock full of shiny prizes!


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