Critique, Editing, Fiction, Group, Novel, Revision, Writing

Loss of Sight

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.

21 thoughts on “Loss of Sight”

  1. Paul, The story I referenced would be heavily revised before submitting to the group, has never been published, and, in fact, it’s never been read by anyone but me. My purpose in submitting a short story to the group would be to get feedback to help polish it up before submission for publication. So does it matter when it was written?

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  2. No, I don’t think the date it was written on matters: just that it is “live” material, meaning still in progress — something you intend to revisit and revise.

    Heck, my fist two episodes were 8 years old! With some minor tweaking… But I am now finishing the whole thing. It’s all plotted out, but I am only now writing ep 3 and beyond.

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  3. Hey everyone! I just thought I’d jump in the conversation here. First of all I’m so glad to see that everyone is commenting (Great job Tricia on your first ever post). I really feel like this is an important topic we’re discussing here because nobody wants to read and critique something if there’s no purpose to it, yet for some of our authors handing out their book one chapter at a time is counter productive. I think for some people it’s great and we’ve all seen progress as a result, but it is easy to get bogged down by editing and never move forward. I guess in the end it has to be up to the author to submit what they feel will be most helpful to them.

    Linda, you are an amazing writer. I would not change a thing unless you feel like you want to! With your submissions I feel like people get super nit picky, because they’re looking for something to critique so they can contribute and be helpful. DO NOT change your characters! I think we all know that are characters are who they are, they come to us as fully formed individuals that we then get to discover and if we try to change them, they rebel against us. You have not need to feel insecure about your writing ever!

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  4. I want to play. There’s been a party going on while I was making pumpkin bread.
    I agree about getting stuck in revision. It’s funny too how Scotti said she liked my first version better. Maybe there’s something to that comment. I’ve made so many changes I can’t see straight. I likely had a clearer vision at the time. I once gave poor Ed 3 versions of my Psych Ward and asked him to choose. This is after he had read many earlier drafts. I think the secret is–and I’m like Linda here–is to have more confidence and don’t change to please everyone.
    I need to start Psych Ward over with new eyes.

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