This week, I experienced my first visual symptoms presaging a migraine. A huge, neon boomerang suddenly appear in my field of vision—frightening! During the twenty minutes or so before the object drifted to the left, finally fading away as the headache pain hit, my vision was limited to what I could see around the edges of this thing. But even though the experience was unpleasant, it led me to a discovery. I finally understand why my characters essentially stopped speaking to me a couple weeks ago. I had lost sight of them.
For some writers, it may not be a problem to get feedback on a novel in progress, but it’s proved disastrous for me. I had started submitting chapters of this novel for critique in my writers’ group, but doing so sabotaged my writing. I am too anxious to please. Based on the feedback, I found myself making changes or inserting whole scenes that were not true to my characters and their story. My characters rebelled.
I don’t fault the expertise of these group members, just the modus operandi. This is a large group and submissions are done on a rotating schedule. I see now that reading a novel one chapter at a time over several months or a year, is such an unnatural situation that the reader could not help but get a distorted picture of the whole. So, for me, I’ve decided to stop this madness. From now on, I will only submit completed short stories, which can be critiqued properly in such a group . And I will let my characters be themselves again. After I’ve completed writing and polishing, then I will seek feedback—and then only on the whole thing at once.