Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Writing with a Crit Partner

Everyone has a different process with their CP--that's the glorious thing about being writer. Let me take you through what a novel looks like for me. Not every novel has the same process, but this is what happened with my last completed MS. Prepare yourself for it is insanity. Welcome to my life.

**Again, reminder: I have four CPs. I know, I know: it is a lot. But each one of them serves a different purpose and interjects into a different stage of my novel writing, and you can refer to yesterday's post if you want more details.**

Rewind to 14 months ago, when I wrote the last line of an MS--let's call it DAGGER (which is not it's real name at all.) I finished DAGGER and it was 120K (yes, for real!) of this story that I loved. I thought it was brilliant and I was pretty proud of the characters, story, plot. I did my own round of edits--typos, read through, etc--and then I sent it to my CP, who was most assuredly gonna love it because I love it. **Back then, I only had Christina, and she's read everything I've written and always does it before anyone else.**

But then, she came back with notes. Lots of notes. Lotsof questions, pacing issues, and you know, some general loveliness. **General loveliness is important!** She asked things like: Why is the character doing this? What did you mean when you wrote this? What's this piece of the plot supposed to do because I'm confused? Why don't you tell me this? And sometimes the notes are smaller, but usually, they're significant questions about my novel. Questions that she shouldn't be asking because I should've answered them. Or issues with pacing or character development or motivation--it varies--but each of the things my CP offers me are detrimental to the story success. 

Then, I had to look at all the things Christina suggested, asked, and wondered about and figure out how to fix them. Revision is a key element of writing a book. As I saw on twitter once: Revision is re-evaluating the VISION. This took me a month or so that first time. Then I queried, got some feedback on how to fix it MORE and revised more. **I rewrote seven times total before I finished**

Now let's flash forward to about eight-five months ago. 

This is where other CPs (and beta readers) come into play. Patricia and I spent A LOT of time trying to move the story in a different direction, to flesh out the questions, to build the motivation--and she never read the previous drafts, but she completely helped me shape where the story was going. Then, she would read chapters as I wrote them, which usually made no sense since she didn't have the context. When it was done, she read it completely again to make sure it flowed well and that everything still worked.

Once I was happy with that, I sent it back to Christina. She looked at it again and (having read 4 of the 7 rewrites) her feedback was again helpful and more directed. She and Patricia really helped me clean up the story, the characters, all the things left behind from seven rewrites. After Christina approved, I passed it on to my beta readers. I only had two and both were strictly reading. And that's not including the people who read early drafts. Then, at some point, Cindy and Jenn got it and did more of the line-edit/overall process of the story. (Because at that point I wasn't changing anything major!) 

Usually, my books don't have this big of a process. But the problem I encountered was that I exhausted my initial readers/CPs at drafts one and two. So, when draft seven came around, there wasn't anyone new. New, fresh eyes are important because the more you see something, the closer you are to it, then you have hangings of things that used to be instead of what are. **Example: in RENT (movie) there's a deleted scene for Goodbye Love and I love that song. I watched it once with my friend and that song didn't come on! I was so confused as to why it wasn't there because I totally watched it. But then, I remembered it was a deleted scene. That song being in (or not being in) the movie completely changes the story.**

Whew! That was a really short summary of fifteen long, long months. So thankful for my HUGE team.

This WIP is different. Really different.

Patricia has helped me develop and brainstorm, and Christina reads each chapter as I write it. Just for reading pleasure and not for critiquing. Eventually, when the whole thing is ready, she'll read it again for critting purposes...and then I'll pass it on to all my other CPs. Since they all read at different stages, it's really helpful for getting new and fresh perspectives on the novel. 

That's the purpose of having a CP after all--building this trusting relationship where you can get honest feedback and perspective on your book that you can't have as a writer. And cookies....cookies are good too. 

What's your process like??

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