To be honest, Bev, I’ve never belonged to a critique group, so I’m a fish out of water here. (Or a dog in water, I suppose). I have been in some one-night critique sessions at conferences, and I’ve seen that YOU can definitely set the tone for the entire meeting. Start off with lots of positive things, and then gently make suggestions. If you’re like me, the first thing you see is what needs fixing, but you can’t hit people over the head with that; it’s too discouraging. Remember: FIRST DO NO HARM. (Works for writers AND doctors). THEN PRAISE WHAT IS GOOD. Then suggest what could use improvement, and DEMONSTRATE how to improve.
Time for your questions!
Linda asked about the “train story”–that one has been placed on a back burner. My editor didn’t care for it, so it obviously needs some major tweaks. So I’m going to set it aside for a few months and revisit it again. Going back to the drawing board, as they say. Sometimes we have to do that . . .
Miriam asked:Well, you might want to save this for Q&A day — how did you handle it when the three sisters talked all at the same time? Especially when they might not agree on how to handle a situation.
The writing rule is “one viewpoint character per SCENE.” So when I’m writing a scene with all three sisters involved in it (and there are many scenes like that), I have to choose ONE sister and place the scene in HER head. So she will be judging the others’ thoughts, she will be reacting, but all I will be able to show of the other sisters is their facial expressions, voices, and actions. This is actually kind of fun, because a lot of time the viewpoint character completely misunderstands or misinterprets the expressions, voices, and actions of the other characters. 🙂
Linda asked:Have your sisters read the book and what was their response? (Because sisters can be our biggest fans and our worst critics!)
One of my sisters doesn’t read much, and the other, I think, was afraid that people would think she WAS Penny because they did have a few similarities. But I kept assuring her that she’s NOT Penny, and no one who knew her would think that. It’s fiction, after all. That’s why I RARELY base any character on real people. Funny, but often people don’t recognize characteristics at all, and other times they think I’ve based something on them when that was the last thing on my mind . . .
Crystal wrote:I am curious about keeping the two pov straight; it’s what I’m struggling with myself. Could you please give a bit more detail on that process? Thanks!
As I mentioned above, the writer must confine herself to one character’s point of view per scene. So when you’re in that person’s head, whether it’s first person or third, you can only relate what she’s thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, sensing, and remembering. If you REALLY want to create an intimate experience, you should only use vocabulary that is the character’s vocabulary, particularly if you’re writing a lot of interior monologue. And when you’re writing your character’s thoughts, since we’re in her brain, YOU DON’T NEED ITALICS. (One of my pet peeves). Using italics for thoughts is an outmoded, awkward, hard to read practice that deserves to be kicked to the curb. Use POV instead–put us in a character’s head, and simply write what she’s thinking.
Bev wrote: On a similar subject, my critique group has been wondering if there is a good resource for specific steps in peer critique, so we get the best bang for our voluntary buck. Any advice?
People who criticize without offering an answer or a solution are just blowing hot air. 🙂
Well . . . okay. I think that sums up our Q&A session. 🙂 Don’t forget the “share it with a sister” contest–details are on my web page. The big drawing is May 15, so it’s not too late to enter every day!