Critique to Inspire

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I’m one-fifth of the way through my fifth draft! That has to count for something, right? It’s totally a milestone everyone should celebrate, isn’t it? Four solid chapters out of twenty! Woo hoo! We’re coasting now!

Just kidding.

In many ways, this week has felt the opposite of celebratory. In “grading” my scenes last week, I got a little depressed. Why? The voice is off. All. Over. The. Place. And voice is a nemesis of mine.

It’s so intangible. When organization is off, you outline and physically move sections around. When voice is off, you go sentence by freaking sentence “listening” as hard as you can for something impossible to pinpoint. Sort of like thumping a watermelon. Is that the right thump? Is that what’s it’s supposed to sound like?

Yeah, there’s a lot of that uncertainty: Is the voice off in this sentence? Is it better or worse now that I’ve changed it? Does it match the earlier chapter where the voice is working? Because it is working there, right?

Um, yeah. Is it telling if I admit I’ve been a little grumpy this week?

But then I stumbled across something amazing. It was a comment I discovered in the margin of my fourth draft — a comment written by a writer friend of mine who read through that draft last summer:

Just a random thought. I don’t know Wendy well enough to decide if this scene is believable. And in her previous POV sections we don’t get a deep enough penetration into her emotions and thoughts for me to feel that she’d be into a summer fling. . . . I just keep going, yeah right.

Maybe you could make it more clear somehow that she’s shocked by her own emotions, the intensity, the vibrant, thrumming, living, singing aliveness of it all and have her yearn for more because she’s never had this. Ever. And she wants it. Bad enough to throw caution to the wind . . .

Go deeper into her POV. Let us live through her emotions, not just her surface thoughts.  Fearlessly write what she’d feel. Make me believe.

Today’s post is in many ways a thank you.

This comment is beautiful. It challenges me to do better by inspiring me to want to. I love the line “Fearlessly write what she’d feel. Make me believe.” It’s been running through my head all week.

Besides, what’s not to love about “the vibrant, thrumming, living, singing aliveness of it all”? Of course I want my story to be all those things.

Thank you, Leisha, for fearlessly writing how you felt while reading my draft. You are the epitome of constructive criticism, as I’ll be gushing to my students the next time I’m trying to define it for them. Constructive criticism, I’ve now decided, points out weaknesses in ways that motivate the writer to make them strengths.

Voice might be a weakness in my fourth draft, but by the end of this fifth draft I’m determined that the voice will be vibrant, thrumming, alive and singing.

Sometimes the most important thing a critic can be is inspiring.

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9 responses »

  1. Ahhhh, thanks! Here’s to drafts and inspiring friends, because you have done the same for me more often than you know! And I can’t wait to read your next draft so I can live once more with your amazing characters. Hugs!

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  2. Voice is a killer in my pieces too. I tend to oscillate between styles and tones way too often. I am glad you found a piece of inspiration to help you tackle such an integral issue in your writing. Good luck!

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    • I know what you mean about oscillating. Sometimes I even do it on purpose, trying out different voices, but then of course that creates more work later when I have to choose one and fix the rest.

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  3. Pingback: Let It Grow, Prune It Later: Writing More than You Need « All About the Words

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