Sometimes it’s possible to love something to death. Like kids do with their favorite things.
My two-year-old’s blanket, for example, is forever having to be mended. He bites it and drags it around the house and stretches it out with his feet and uses it as a tent and a cape and all kinds of things. So fairly often I have to get out the sewing machine and stitch the squares back together where the seams have broken apart.
A couple nights ago, I woke to the sound of him crying. I went in the boys’ bedroom and saw that he was still in bed, still with his blanket around him, so I patted his head, said, “Shh. It’s okay. Go back to sleep,” and returned to my bed to do the same.
Two minutes later, he was crying again. This time I looked more closely and discovered that because of the holes in his blanket, he’d gotten tangled in it. His head had gone through one hole and each arm through another until he had no idea how to free himself.
And okay, it was kind of humorous. I felt bad for the kid and immediately helped him get untangled, and I vowed to sew up the holes the next day now that they’d become dangerous, but I also laughed about the “hole” thing.
Anyhow, the analogy for the day is that I think this happens to us as writers. We love our manuscripts so much that maybe we aren’t really capable of untangling the plot holes ourselves until somebody helps us out. Right now I’m reading five manuscripts from writer friends of mine, and next Saturday the six of us are getting together to help each other get untangled.
Last time we got together, the feedback I got sounded something like this:
- “I’m a little worried about this part you have in the middle because it just feels kind of thrown in. I want to get more of a sense that it’s part of the world you’ve created, so I think you need something like it in at least one other place in the book so that the one part isn’t just a convenient plot point.”
- “This particular character doesn’t seem to have a purpose right now. You should probably either cut her out or give her a reason to be in the story.”
There was plenty of positive stuff, too, but this kind of constructive criticism really helped me know where to sew up the holes in the next draft.
When I re-sewed my toddler’s blanket, I stitched a seam and then held the whole blanket up to the light to check for more holes. Having a critique group who knows what to look for is a great way to hold your manuscript up to the light and see where the holes are.
So, as crazy as it sounds, I’m super excited for Saturday the 27th. It might seem like they’ll be tearing me apart, but really they’ll just be showing me the holes I couldn’t see on my own. And that will give me a chance to fix them.
What are your thoughts on critique groups and soliciting feedback? What experiences have you had with it, and what recommendations would you give others about it? What kinds of comments have been the most helpful in untangling your plot holes?