I didn't know exactly what to expect. My biggest fear was that she'd put a big red 'X' on each page and tell me I needed to start over. Not that I REALLY thought she'd do that, but this was my first 10 pages of my very first novel and I was so nervous!! But honestly, I really wanted her to rip it apart. Just tear it to shreds and show me all the novice mistakes I was making. I could take it. Make. It. Bleed.
And it felt ... surprisingly good. Almost therapeutic. I had gone over these pages SO many times and was to the point when my eyes couldn't focus because I'd read the same words over and over. I was just tired of this intro and wanted to keep pushing forward with the rest of the story. I felt like I was wasting precious writing time and I didn't know how to make it any better. Though I knew it needed it.
I LOVE my critique group. So much. But having a fresh set of eyes - especially from a person who has seen her own novels get ripped to shreds by her editor - pour over my work is incredibly valuable. I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity this early in my writing. She crossed out unnecessary words and phrases, asked a lot of great questions and pointed out parts that didn't make sense or contradicted something else. She helped me see my writing through a reader's eyes.
Here are Leah's major critiques:
- Show, don't tell - Instead of telling the reader what someone looks like, describe it through action. My critique group has made this comment before. This one is hard, and I know I will get better the more I write. I just need to pay more attention to that.
- Character voice should match her age - My main character is in her thirties. Being 26 myself, I didn't want her to sound too young. I was worried it would sound like a YA novel. I guess I overcompensated and she comes across as much older. Oops!
- Watch out for repetitive words and sentence structure - This is my achilles heel. I use "because", "and", "so" and "but" A LOT. I also use commas too much. This will be a hard habit to break. Just writing this blog post while keeping this rule in mind is proving to be a challenge! Also, I used the adjective "soft" about four times in my first few pages and had no idea. Hmm, what are some synonyms for "soft"?
- Every scene needs a purpose - I have a scene in the beginning that I really like because it introduces my main character's best friend. I think the scene is pretty funny and I love their relationship, but really it doesn't progress the plot in any way. I'm going to try to rework it so I can keep this scene. I need to make it have a purpose. Or cut it (ouch!).
I'm letting Leah's comments simmer for a while before I go back and edit. I might even wait until I get further into my WiP so I can use these lessons as I move forward. Once I've practiced and gotten more skilled, I'll attack the dreaded intro again. I just don't feel like I'm ready yet.
Have you had any really good critiques that ripped you a new one? What major lessons did you learn?
THANK YOU, LEAH!