Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Critiques & Process III: Determining Relevancy

This is the hard one for me. I obsess over the critiques that I disagree with the most until I start to think that maybe, just maybe, they were right after all. This way of thinking is likely why I have found myself embroiled in endless drafts of novels, hovering around completeness without quite passing the finish line.

I have learned to work with this handicap, by addressing my own insecurities.

The first part of this is determining what I want to achieve with my writing. it’s like writing a mission statement for my novel, and my writing career as a whole. The purpose of this is to keep myself focused on what I consider the most important aspects of my own writing.

The statement of intent here is not for anyone else’s eyes. Rather, it is for me to use before reading critiques, to keep me from over-analyzing the feedback.

Next, I set up an order and a checklist. Being very business-like about the revision process helps to quite the more temperamental writer/artsy side that want to react to the feedback, and gives more precedence to the negative responses than the positive.

My checklist breaks down the responses into the following categories:


Description/ Scene/ Redundancy/Omission

Punctuation/Grammar/Word Choice/Formatting

Then I address them in order.

Currently this is written down, but I’m thinking of entering it into a spreadsheet for when the latest draft is done. The best way to turn the critiques objective are to make them seem less personal, and focus on the number of people who--having never met one another--agree on the same passage.

And yes, that means for me the group-form is mostly off. I need to keep the critiques non-emotional, so they can’t be personal to me or anyone else. So even if I know the people well, distance between my readers is better. Then I know if two people, uninfluenced by someone else’s critiquing method see the same thing wrong, then I should change it.

Because my writing style is more immersive, so too is my rewriting phases. So I need to be able to make and implement decisions quickly to keep up momentum. I need the momentum to be as continual as possible (allowing for life) but qualitative as well. That means I need to be able to identify problems objectively, quickly, and make changes. Groups tend to operate slowly. The slower I go, the more I second-guess, tweak and obsess. Slow inspires me to react emotionally because I don't react instantly, I'm more of a simmerer--something hits me a little off at first, it doesn't really bug me but if it goes unaddressed for any length of time it gathers importance and I get more upset and worked up.

There is no room for emotion when revising, and there is no room for me to react when working at top speed. Hence the need to know myself, how and what i react to in order to work around my own flaws to give my stories precisely what they require to reach their potential without me obsessing for years.


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