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Friday, September 4, 2009

Don't Jump Too Soon!

Or you may not make it over the pole. Yesterday, I talked about stepping back and studying feedback before jumping the gun and changing things. I have to admit, I'm guilty of this. I've found myself rewriting chapters before sending them to my beta readers based on their feedback from earlier chapters. I've stumbled upon a slight problem with doing this, though. I hit a chapter where I literally said, "Oh, crap! I've really messed up!" You see, the changes I had made based on their feedback caused the rest of the story not to make sense. If I had sat back and thought about it, I would have realized this sooner. Don't get me wrong; their observations were accurate and change was necessary, but I went about it all wrong. J.B. Chicoine left an interesting comment on my post on Wednesday. In case you missed it, here is what she had to say: Lately, I’ve thought a lot about the honesty in offering critique. I have swapped my MS with 2 writers (yourself being #2). With #1, we mutually agreed to hold off feedback until we are both done, and have completed our review and comments. This is under the premise that candor would come easier if we weren’t tempted to moderate our words according to what the other had to say (BTW, it was my idea). We haven’t swapped results yet, and I think we’re both nervous. On the other hand, you and I are swapping and critiquing in 3 chapter increments, and I feel much more at ease this time around. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve now done one critique or because you and I got the awkwardness out of the way right up front. I think it’s the latter. What do you think? She's right; our method of exchanging critiques every three chapters has provided for an ongoing relationship of mutual honesty, which is good. But, now, I understand her desire with her first crit partner to postpone feedback until the very end. This way prevents you from making hasty changes that don't work. I have mixed feelings about this. What are your thoughts? Which method of critiquing do you think is most effective? And, it's Friday, which means it's time for the next recipient of the Silver Shoe of Sincerity Award. This award is intended for those who show sincerity in their blog interaction. You can read about it here. This week's recipient is Terri Tiffany of Terri Tiffany Inspirational Author. She has her own great posts, but she always leaves valuable comments on my blog, as well as the blogs of many others. If you don't already follow her, go check her out. Have a great weekend!

41 comments:

Amy Tate said...

I agree Susan. I like to have my story very grounded before I allow others to read it. Otherwise, I feel like it's not "me." Thanks for the link to Tiffany's blog! Her family owns a bookstore too! I just love meeting other CBA folks.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Congrats, Terri!

Hmm... I think for the reason you mentioned, Susan, I'd prefer to have it done all at once. I still haven't mastered the urge to run and change things right away, which could potentially mess things up.

Have a great weekend, Susan!

Iapetus999 said...

There's an inherent problem with critiquing novels in that people can only critique the chapters in front of them, out of the context of the whole story. Therefore people focus more on style than substance. I think it's really up to the author to focus on the story and make sure it all makes sense, is paced correctly, sticks to the main themes, etc.

B.J. Anderson said...

I actually do it both ways. I have one critique partner who looks at a couple of chapters a week, and then I have another couple of critiquers who read the full manuscript in one fell swoop. I don't prefer one way more than the other, and find all of them very helpful. I agree with iapetus999, though, that you have to be the one to keep it straight in your head, which can be really hard!! I'm always finding little inconsistencies in my manuscript and it's the main reason editing takes so long for me.

Tess said...

The critique relationship is an interesting one. Just like any other, I think each group can set their own rules and find what works for them. Good point about not forgetting to look at the whole picture.

FictionGroupie said...

I'm new to the whole critiquing thing and have only done it the chapter by chapter way so far. But I could see the benefit in reading the whole thing through before giving feedback so that you can comment on the bigger things.

Janna Qualman said...

I've jumped too soon too many times. Ugh.

I don't mind some feedback when I'm getting started, to make sure I'm headed the right way, but I prefer full critiques at the end, when all is done. That's because so much is apt to change (for me), from plot points to flow and all of it, that it's best I have it straight before subjecting a helper to it. You know?

Congrats to Terri! Love her, love her blog. Very deserving!

Lily said...

Terri is having a lucky day! I just saw her name as a winner of something else...

I'll remember this post when it's my time on the chopping block!

jbchicoine said...

I’m really enjoying the incremental feedback, on both the giving and receiving end.
I do think it is important to remember that you don’t have to make any major changes until the final chapter comments come in. That’s when your partner can offer their overall impression on plot and character development.
Until all members of the jury come back in, I’ll wait on altering large chunks of text. Meanwhile, I like working out some of my technical errors and messing with some of my wording.

Girl in My Own World said...

I like the three chapter method, but then the waiting until the end seems to be good because they will get the full story. I have a question though. Is it bad not to let people view your work? I don't let people read it anymore. I just don't know if I trust it. Like what it they steal your ideas? I am just curious. Btw... if I have not said so, this blog has become one of my favorites! It is so refreshing to find a blog that is about writing and you make it so cool with the shoe concept! Love it! I look forward to your post everyday! Also, thanks for following and commenting on my blog as well! :o)

Dominique said...

When I beg ususpecting friends for a critique, I usually give it to them in 3 chapter increments. It keeps things from being more than anyone can chew, in my mind. True, this often leaves them with questions like "Are these two gonna end up together," but that's okay.

Dawn VanderMeer said...

When I first joined a crit group, I wanted the whole book finished before I shared. I needed to get it out my own way. Now I prefer the chapter by chapter method. My crit group has prevented me from taking the wrong path so many times, and it's easier to fix it before you write it than after you've invested time and heart. I think both ways are good, but now I prefer the chapter by chapter approach.

Robyn Campbell said...

Congrats to Terri. I will check out her blog this weekend.

Beth and I do as many pages as the other has written. And I'm comfortable with this. Then Beta readers see it again after I make the changes that Beth suggested and I agree with.

But I have run into that problem too. I changed parts that left the rest making no sense because others told me it had to be. A lot of the changes were needed, but some were not.

And it was my idea to rewrite the entire middle of my MG novel. It is so much better now. In fact I've started querying. :) It is something each writer must decide. And you simply MUST have good feedback. I know of a published author who has written his novels without benefit of a crit group, but not many can do that. His wife critiques them I think. Me I love the give and the take on feedback. It makes me a much better writer and I get to talk with other writers. Writing is so solitary. The companionship is priceless. :)

Nice post there Susan! Have a happy Labor Day weekend. :)

Lazy Writer said...

Amy,
That is one way to look at it. Having critiques could cause us not to be ourselves.

Kristen,
It is hard not to rush to change things, but I think I've learned, and I hope I can control myself. :)

Iapetus,
I agree. Style is personal, and it is definitely up to the author to develop that.

B.J.,
I would guess both ways would be helpful. I'm finding this way to be helpful, so it's working for me.

Tess,
The whole picture is most important.

Fiction Groupie,
I'm new, too. I'm definitely learning as I go.

Janna,
Good point. If you let others critique as you write, it's really not fair to them. I can't tell you how many times I've changed direction and had to back and rewrite earlier chapters because of that change.

Lily,
Good for Terri!

jb,
I agree. I just need to control my urges to make major changes! :)

Girl in my own world,
I wouldn't say it's bad, but having others read your work is definitely helpful. Thanks for the compliments about my blog. It's very nice of you to say!

Dominique,
You are right; more than 3 chapters at time might be overwhelming.

Dawn,
I'm sure both ways work. It just depends on what your needs are.

Jody Hedlund said...

It's so tempting to rush to change feedback. When I entered a contest, I had three judges entries to review. I took out a blank sheet of paper and evaluated the things all of them had in common and wrote those down. Then I made a list of the other feedback that I agreed with. Then after thinking through my list, I started making changes. The slow and steady approach worked for me!

Leah Rubin said...

Yeah, it sounds like you've pretty much figured this out. It's a balancing act, like so much in life. Great work!

Suzanne said...

I think you bring up a great point. I don't know what I like better. I think a full critique would be the most helpful, but for revision junkies it is nice to have the constant chunking. I have to make this decision soon, as my WIP is about to go out and I know I will want it back chapter by chapter, but should probably wait. Hmmmmm.

Strange Fiction said...

I'd have to say that I find both ways beneficial. For a pacing analysis, for example, I like the chapter by chapter go through. For overall plot, etc. I prefer an opinion on the overall manuscript.

My last beta reader was a retired English teacher who took a pencil to the whole ms. There are gaps in the edit however because she confessed that when she was drawn too deeply into the story she forgot to mark. That's useful info too..

I'd like to think that all the unmarked parts are good but I also have to wonder if some of those unmarked areas could be boring parts that she glazed over..

It's a process!

Beth said...

I would imagine I'd like the full MS review better, but I can see the value in doing every couple of chapters too.

Since Strange Fiction brought up using a retired English teacher as a reader, I have a question for those who are going through the critique process: Whose critiques have you found to be more helpful, other writers? or people who might have a degree in English?

Just curious. Have a beautiful weekend!!

Cindy said...

I like to give and receive suggestions as I go. A lot of the feedback I got in my earlier chapters really made the later chapters flow better and I had the chance to look those over and make a few changes before sending them off to my critique partners.

Yay for Terri!

Girl Meets Gun said...

Usually I'm pretty quick to jump the gun when making changes, so this was a good blog for me. If anyone reads and critiques my book (currently, my friend Deena is doing so every few chapters), I take their words to heart and start making changes. BUT- as you said- sometimes it causes confusion later on! And I'm had to go back and figure out what it is that is NOW missing.

I think I will stick to the critiquing for every few chapters, but hold off on making any changes until the very end. That way I'll have great notes and be set to edit. :)

Girl Meets Gun said...

Oh yeah! I hope you have a great weekend too, even without plans! Sometimes that's the best way to go! :)

Margo said...

I think it depends on the critique partner, and also how specific partners affect your writing. I like to have a chunk of something done before sharing, because it gets my belief in it up to speed. I spend a lot of effort just turning down the volume on a host of pesky inner critiques that are always available in order to get a good first draft (or a good bad first draft that I can work with :) I also like defining what is being critiqued... plot, character, dialogue.. whatever - I think it's hard to focus on everything at once without getting confused, for me anyway - especially in larger writing projects.

Stephanie Faris said...

We do one chapter at a time but I guess I can see how three chapters would give more of an overall view of things. I just feel overwhelmed having all those pages to critique at once.

Lazy Writer said...

Robin,
I agree; the companionship is priceless.

Jody,
Slow and steady is the only way to go.

Leah,
Thanks for stopping by.

Suzanne,
Chapter by chapter is fine, as long as you can control yourself from editing everything!

Beth,
Great question. I'd like to know the answer to that, too.

Strange,
She love those parts so much that she didn't even think about editing! :)

Cindy,
Yes, yay for Terri!

Girl meets gun,
Good idea. Every three chapters works, as long as you hold off on major edits until the end.

Margo,
I'm glad you joined us. I look forward to getting to know you. Great idea about defining what is being critiqued.

Stephanie,
It is a little overwhelming, but as a beta reader, it keeps me in the story a little better than just one chapter at a time. My crit group does one chapter a week, where as my beta readers and I do 3 a week. Both ways work.

storyqueen said...

I might want "feedback" a few chapters at a time, but not critique. I'd rather wait for a critique until the end....that way I can avoid just what you are talking about. But it's kid of fun to have a reader just tell you what they are thinking after each chapter....not a critique per se, but just to know what is going on in the reader's brain is very helpful.

For example, the feedback might be: "I find myself confused about the character of the HIghwayman....is he good or bad?"

And as I writer, I might be jumping up and down squeeing, "Ha! That's just what I wanted you to think!"

Shelley

Laura Martone said...

I haven't been beta-reading for very long... so far, several people have read (or are reading) my novel - and I've preferred getting the feedback at the end of their complete read. When it's done incrementally, I find that more questions pop up that might, in fact, be answered later in the book. So, it feels like wasted time when it's done a couple chapters at a time, but as I said... I'm not a terribly experienced beta reader.

In fact, I'm J.B.'s "other" reader. And it's my fault that there's a hold-up right now. She finished my critique a long time ago and is holding it until I'm finished with hers (which I think is an excellent idea). But although I've now read her novel twice, I haven't been able to finish compiling my notes yet. So, in a way, she might have been better off had we been doing it a couple chapters at a time. But I'm almost done with all my "real" work this week, so I'm hoping that I'll finally be able to finish her critique this weekend. Poor patient soul. Poor overworked me. :-(

Danyelle said...

Great post!

I generally prefer the whole MS so I don't lose the forest for the trees. I think it's very important for a person to know their story before they change it. I've loved my Betas, and they have pointed out some very good changes that I have made. But I don't make them all--especially those that would change the story from where it's supposed to go.

Amy De Trempe said...

I've always critiqued and been critiqued chapter by chapter. When I get a critique back, I read through the comments, but I make no changes. At least four people critique each of my chapters and they all have comments from grammar to content. I rarely stop in the middle of a WIP to go back and revise unless there is something glaring that needs to be fixed. This method seems to work for me. Plus, it is nice to get almost immediate feedback on a WIP, especially when it is positive.

terri tiffany said...

Thank you for your kindness in giving me this award! I am having an awesome few days here:))

I did run into something this week with my critique partners. We all have a different style.We send three chapters or so a week. But one set of advice wanted me to delete whole sections of my book that I normally would have with any other book, but I felt those sections shaped my character.

I struggle with what to do, and finally decided to leave some in and work the other parts into dialogue. But I had other people read it who loved those parts and didn't want any deleted.

It comes down to your own gut feeling about what is moving and making your story. It's always a risk too. Maybe my book won't ever get published--maybe I am doing something too different or frowned on but when I wrote it, I felt I really needed to. And in end, you need to feel good about what you write--even if tehre are consequences.

WhisperingWriter said...

I think I need to join a critique group.

I've been re-reading the novel I'm writing and I already know some chapters don't make sense so I'll have to re-write or delete.

Lori said...

I think I prefer the full manuscript critique, although it becomes hard work and it's much more terrifying.

Nat said...

I've never done the critique as you go method. I LOVE my critique group and they always give wonderful feedback, but in the end I know it is my manuscript and I've got to be smart about the advice I take and the advice I leave. In the past I've chosen not to take advice, even some that I thought was excellent, just because it didn't fit into my overall vision for the story.

Anna C. Morrison said...

Other writers I know do exchange at certain intervals, and I think it is because of the change factor. Others wait and submit entire works, but that can be burdensome on the person critiquing the piece, also. I haven't participated in critiques in almost a year, but really do prefer the regular intervals, for consistency, and to allow for change.

Sarah Laurence said...

Your title is just right. I don’t show my MS to anyone until I complete it and have spent some time revising it myself. I was once in a writing group where we shared WIP at an early stage, and it was counter productive to my writing style. Getting advice is good, but you shouldn’t follow all of it. Too many cooks….

Kathryn Magendie said...

I wait until my complete manuscript is done before I ask any reader to read . . . just for the reason you say, and also because I don't want to be confused or whatever - I want to have a solid manuscript and feel confident about where I am going . . . I'm not in a critique group any longer, but this is how I find it to work best for me when I was in a group, and even now - I wait until my manuscript is pretty much done (I've edited it to death) and only then do I think about asking a few readers to peruse it -- I hope to do this with Vk2, we'll see if I have time!

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Susan! Just a quick note (I know I owe you a couple of emails, LOL) - but I wanted to tell you that I've awarded you the Splish Splash Award on my blog. I know you've gotten it already - so don't feel the need to pass it along - but I just couldn't resist honoring your FREAKIN' AWESOME blog!

Shelli said...

forget the award - i want those sparkly shoes!!!!

Weronika Janczuk said...

This post makes me wary of revision, but you're absolutely right--it's a process that we need to take into careful consideration. Yikes. I plan to let my ms sit for a month and then, after revisions, send it off for critique and wait another month or two before I finish up any rewriting.

Thanks, Susan!

Patti said...

I agree with waiting until the end to offer the critique. You might change something that's dealt with later on in the novel or think something doesn't make sense until you read the whole thing.

GutsyWriter said...

As I plan on meeting with a couple of agents at a writers conference in November, I tend to pay a lot of attention to the critiques on my first few chapters. Perhaps this is not a great idea, but I want my work to be sooooo polished.