There I said it.
OK maybe not the actual words I put down on paper, but maybe my process is a little different.
Some of my writer friends find it very difficult to share a work in progress (what we in the knitting world call a WIP) until it has been completed and polished and revised and revised some more and then polished again.
Letting someone read it beforehand “gives away the magic,” I’ve been told.
Maybe that comes from the whole writer-as-starving-artist thingy, where we see the writer eking out word by painful word in a dark dingy garret, agonizing over every adverb and participle.
You know those writers— we’ve all seen them in an awful lot of past characterizations in movies, books and television.
Nope. Not me. Not this gal.
Maybe it’s my twenty years in newspapers, where we started each day with a blank page and collaborative put together the news — the stories— of the day by a prescribed time each day in a process that was anything but magic. That daily routine made me a collaborative writer.
As a new reporter (I won’t say young, because I came into the business in my mid-thirties), I’d submit a story, and then an editor would mark it up (and, at the same time, eviscerate my soul—how many times did I run into the ladies room to cry when my buried lead was excised with little or no anesthesia?). I’d resubmit it, maybe several times until that mean old crotchety editor finally (finally!) sent it on to the copy editors, who tweaked it some more, and then on to the composition room, who fit it onto the page… and, then, once again, to my agony, cut it if the story ran long.
In between all those steps, the story could or would come back, or be questioned or critiqued.
“Did you get the name of the dog the fireman saved?”
“You have the fire starting at 4:00. Is that AM or PM?”
“How many fire departments responded? What kind of equipment?”
“Verify the chief’s name please? Jesus, you’ve got it spelled three different ways. Which one’s right?”
Somewhere, somehow, by the time I was an old crotchety editor myself, and telling reporters “Jesus, you’ve got it spelled three different ways,” I began to write novels.
Something down deep inside made me do novels the same way I did newspapers.
I have a trusted group of folks in my critique group who function as those copy editors and line editors did, asking me the same questions, catching errors like the pros they are.
“Your hero has blue eyes through chapter 25 and now he’s got green eyes?”
“Look at your verb usage. She had bled? Just say she bled.”
“How authentic is that reaction? Would you react that way if someone had just stolen something valuable of yours?”
These comments come during monthly writer’s critique group that I chair. It’s a great group of people, some of who seek publication, some of who just want to express themselves more effectively.
I don’t think showing my work in progress gives away the magic. On the contrary, I think it grounds the magic more.
And that doesn’t mean I take everyone’s critique as gospel. There is method to my madness.
Generally, if I get the same critique (outside of just plain wrong grammar, usage or spelling errors) from two or more people, I’ll look at it seriously and most likely make the suggested changes.
If only one person has a reaction to something I’ve written, I don’t dismiss it out of hand, but I have to consider where the critique is coming from. I have to consider at that point the person’s experience, their knowledge of the genre I write in and, sometimes even their motive. I hate it when I have to consider their motive. Only then will I look at seriously changing something.
It seems to work for me. So what about you?
Be sure to get your free copy of my e-book Lethal Little Lies on Amazon from Feb. 2-6 and get Death of a High Maintenance Blonde for free Feb. 8-12. Watch for my newest e-book Death Comes to Jubilant Falls in mid-February.