Critique to Inspire

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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More Inspiration the More You Work for It

This probably won’t be a revelation to anyone except me, but HOLY COW! IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE WRITING EVERY DAY!

After the fabulous critique group I participated in about four weeks ago (see this post), somehow I let teaching and other things (including blogging) get in the way of real writing, and suddenly three weeks had gone by with no revisions. So last Thursday I slapped my wrist and forced myself to not only place butt in chair but ignore the internet and open no files except my WIP.

And not much happened. I tried writing a new scene that I needed to insert, but it wasn’t gelling. I wasn’t feeling inspired. The day was pretty much a flop.

The next day, I forced myself to write again. I created a scene outline, but still didn’t feel much inspiration.

scene outline

Then Saturday I woke up and worked on writing pretty much all day. I monkeyed with the scene outline, I reworked the new scene I’d started Thursday and found that suddenly it was gelling, and throughout the day I was making real progress again!

Sunday, I evaluated. I said to myself, “Self, sure you teach on Mondays and Wednesdays, and sure that makes you feel like you should set writing aside until Thursday through Saturday, but HELLO!  If it takes three days to get back in writing mode every time you let it lapse, then Thursday and Friday will go to waste every week.

“You have to write every day.”

Yep, this is word for word how the internal conversation went.

my desk
Yeah, I work at the kitchen table. It's central, and it's got the best window view.

And here’s the thing: it’s been working. This week I’ve been writing every morning, before starting my lesson plans. My novel is actually progressing again. The more days in a row I concentrate on it, the more inspired I feel about how to rearrange the scenes and quicken the pacing and reveal the characters, etc.

Yeah, it’s not anything new. But that’s my advice: Write daily!

Anybody else feel the same way? Do you write just on the weekends, or some other schedule that works for you? I’m curious to know if having to write daily is just me.

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