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July 24th, 2009

Whose story is this?

I love sending my work out for critique. Not only because I have some great critique buddies, but because I enjoy seeing how other people critique. At an ANWA retreat I attended last weekend, Sarah M. Eden gave a fun talk in which she said there are three types of writing buddies:

a. Mom—always loves it

b. Ruthless editor—mangles MS and rips it apart

c. Pep rally—cheer for you and support you

She also said you need all three types of buddies and one person can be more than one type.

Yes, critiques are lovely and critique buddies are fabulous at pointing out our strengths and weaknesses. We couldn't do this without them!

However (you saw that coming, right?), I think we have to be selective in what advice we use and what we don't. I've found myself becoming a minimalist in that I cut down my words and tighten up my sentences to delete unnecessary words . . . but it's gotten to the point where I think I've lost my voice along the way. I've taken so much advice and incorporated so much into my work that I'm no longer sure whose story I'm writing. And I'm so concerned with minimizing that I've minimized most of the emotion, characterization, and scene building right out of my novel!

The story I wanted to tell isn't the story I ended up with.

I'm not saying we should all dump our crit buddies (whatever you do, don't go there), or ignore all their suggestions . . . we all know they give great suggestions . . . but we need to remember whose story we are writing. We don't want to revise so much or take another's advice so completely that we lose our voice. While we revise, we shouldn't lose sight of the story we started telling in the first place (unless it's so horrible that it needs an overhaul . . . I'm afraid my current WIP may fall into this category).

And speaking of voice (pretend we were), at the same retreat, Janette Rallison gave a talk about POV in which she suggested a good way to find your character's voice is to rewrite in first person (assuming you wrote in a different POV) and then go back and change it to third person.

Of course, she also suggested writing a first draft then putting it aside and re-writing the story from scratch. This confirmed my suspicion that she is completely insane. I mean who ignores all that beautiful word count and starts all over? Okay, she did say you could cut and paste scenes . . . but still . . .

Seriously though, I think this is an excellent suggestion, but I'm not brave enough to try it (see me over here doing the chicken dance?).

I am brave enough to rewrite my novel in first person and this is what I've been working on since last weekend. I haven't gotten very far (since I'm still working . . . yeah, that's fodder for another post). I'm using my previous draft as a guide (so I don't get too far off track), but I'm liking the new version so far. At this point, I plan to change it back to third person . . . but we'll see how it goes.

So what do you all think? Have you ever found yourself losing your story/voice because of too many revisions? Have you ever done as Janette suggested and completely rewritten a novel? Have you tried rewriting in a different POV? Have I asked enough questions?

Another important thing I learned at the ANWA retreat . . . bring a camera . . . no that wasn't it . . . bring earplugs . . . no there was something else . . . oh yeah! Try not to be so painfully shy that you miss out on meeting all the wonderful people . . . but at the same time, don't babble and make a fool of yourself. I'm afraid I went from one extreme to the other. Yeah, I don't do well with meeting new people. *sigh*

 

Write on.