writing

Are You Ready?

This is usually where I apologize for not posting, but I’m not even going to go there today. I am but moments away from finishing my NaNo novel, California Girl. This baby’s come a long way, and the title doesn’t fit anymore. It’s been bothering me a lot lately, that ill-fitting title. I’m not sure what the new title will be.

I wish my only pastime these past couple of days was spending lovely hours immersed in my novel, but alas, that’s not so. I’ve also been working on the novel of the person who inspired my crit partner rant. It hasn’t been an easy task, and I’m becoming more and more frustrated.

Why?

The novel and its writer are not ready for the critiquing stage. 

When I began with the first chapter, I wrote very detailed notes about every page, every paragraph, every sentence, every comma. I was nitpicky as all get out, determined to be thorough, helpful, and positive.

But as the chapters progressed, mistakes built upon mistakes. Things that were little issues in the first few chapters are now major structural issues. There’s no point in me noting anything anymore. This novel doesn’t need to be edited. It needs to be rewritten.

Writing is rewriting.

I love this phrase. The more time I spend rewriting, the more I realize it’s true. It took me two or three months to write Summer Rush. I’ve been rewriting and then editing for going on eight months, and I’m still not to the final critiquing stage.

I’m not a standard for everyone, but it’s safe to say rewriting and editing make up a hefty chunk of the time that goes into creating a publish-worthy novel. Once you complete a first draft, the real work begins. You have to get your building blocks in place, like interesting characters, a coherent timeline, and realistic setting.

I’m going to use the age-old example of building a house and say you must have a firm foundation and good framework before you worry about cosmetic things like paint color or furniture.

When I first started editing, I was seriously guilty of this. I spent hours of time, and my critique partner B spent a good amount of her time, fine-tuning my chapter one – the chapter I ended up tossing entirely. It was a complete waste of time and effort.

Ask yourself, how good is my novel, really? Are you proud of it? Is it the best that you can make it? Don’t send it to your betas yet if you know you’ll be cutting out a character, rewriting the ending, or changing your setting from California to the Arctic Circle.

If you still have major changes to make, you’re not done rewriting, and it is not time to edit. 

Editing, which is what your critique partner will be doing, comes after rewriting. Your partner can’t rewrite for you; only you can do that. If you hand over a novel that still needs to be rewritten, all the critter can do is point out mistakes and offer suggestions on how to fix them. You still have to fix the mistakes yourself.

Right now, with this novel, I’m biting my nails and scratching my head. The writer I’m working with isn’t going to understand if I tell him to go back to square one. He sees no issues with his novel other than grammar, and I’m having a tough time illustrating my point because he insists everything is part of his grand plan.

I’m a little stuck right now. He’s nowhere near the stage he thinks he’s at, and he doesn’t want to acknowledge any issues. But after our initial wariness, he’s been nothing but nice. Am I hitting my head against a brick wall with this guy? I need some advice!

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3 thoughts on “Are You Ready?

  1. I’m not sure if I can offer much advice here. It reminds me a lot of my one (and only) foray into the realm of in-person critique groups. While I’m not saying I’m perfect, and I certainly have matured as a writer since that time, the two writers I was in the group with were a lot like this guy. I had to leave the group before I went nuclear at the next one of them to again spout off “but that’s in my notes” after I asked a question about the draft chapter we had read for that week’s meeting. His “grand plan” reminds me painfully of that line and the attitude it reflects. *shudder*

    The only suggestion I can make is that you give him the notes you have now, if you haven’t already. Suggest that he read through them and give some thought to acting on at least some of them before you read the rest, as it *may* change what goes on with the rest of the book. Explain to him that you want him to have the best use of the limited time you can spend editing his work. (I routinely refer to my English degree as being a degree in the fine art of BS, by the way)

    I doubt that he’ll take the hint from the above, but it might give you at least a break from bashing your head into that wall, or even relieve you of having to read the rest, if he reads between the lines properly.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem helping people out with writing, I do it all day long at work for the engineers I work with. But I am a firm believer that some people can’t be helped because they refuse to see any need for it, and you can’t save someone from themselves, sadly.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! That sounds like a good idea. It’s been frustrating me a lot that I’m putting in so much effort, and he doesn’t seem to be trying at all. I know now that I should have tested this partnership a lot more before jumping into it headfirst – a lesson learned for next time!

      1. My honest philosophy in life is that nothing is a waste of time as long as you learned something from it. That’s from someone who just tossed out a 107k word manuscript because I decided after it was done that something entirely fundamental was other than my original assumption. Oh well, many lessons learned from writing that one, so it’s all good. Sometimes you just have to jump in and see how it turns out.

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