A year or so ago I wrote about the experience of having my own manuscript, Kissing Shakespeare, critiqued by my group. To say I was somewhat stressed is a gross understatement. Whenever I critique someone else’s work, I’m reminded of how vulnerable I felt–and always feel–when it’s my turn on the hot seat.
In my critique group, there are two kinds of critiquers: those who work with the manuscript as it is, and think about ways to strengthen it; and those who do that, but also come up with all kinds of new plot twists, characters, obstacles, and creative ways in which to take the story. I definitely fall into the first camp. Although I enjoy letting my mind run free with my own stories, I’m not really comfortable doing so with the manuscripts of fellow writers. I don’t like the idea of co-opting someone’s story and turning it into something it wasn’t intended to be.
That said, I think there is great value in having the highly creative types throw out their ideas. Sometimes the interplay that results creates an “aha” moment for the writer. And of course, one can always reject the suggestions that don’t fit with one’s own vision of the story.
A great book on revising–sorry, critiques inevitably lead to revision–is by Chris Roerden. It’s called Don’t Murder Your Mystery: 24 Fiction-Writing Techniques To Save Your Manuscript From Turning Up…D.O.A. Obviously, it’s specifically for mystery writers, but I’ve found that the advice Ms. Roerden offers would apply to most genres. My copy is highlighted and filled with post-its. When I was revising Kissing Shakespeare, I copied her essential tips and techniques onto index cards and kept them close by.
Happy Halloween! Hope the zombies don’t eat up your WIP.