Critiques

Writing critiquesIt’s fascinating how our perspectives can change over time. Last year I attended the regional Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Spring Conference and saw people receiving critiques from an agent, an editor, and two published authors. I thought, “What kind of people would want to put theirselves through that?” This year, I completed the first ten pages of my current manuscript and anxiously awaited for a chance to compete for one of the thirty available critique slots. I secured one of those sessions, and now completely understand the value critiques play in the writing process.

Admittedly, I’m having much more trouble with my current book, Believing In Horses, Too, than I did with my first book. When I wrote my first book, Believing In Horses, I sat down and wrote. I hadn’t studied books, followed blogs, attended conferences, or listened to webinars all telling me how to write better. I wrote, and revised, edited, and then fortunately had good editors and an excellent publisher. Somehow I thought all I’ve been learning over the past two years would make this next book easier. But it hasn’t. Knowing all that I’m doing wrong has made it that much harder.

I received my critique from Rachel Orr, agent with The Prospect Agency, also a former editor at Harper-Collins, and an author herself. She kindly and patiently reviewed what I now realize was a disaster of the first ten pages of my novel. Overall, it’s really not that bad, but the problem is, somewhere along the way in my learning, I forgot my audience. She pointed out to me that tweens don’t want to read from the parents’ point of view. She pointed out that it’s a book about horses, and we haven’t even physically touched one in the first five chapters. I won’t go on and on, but MY point is that she so clearly saw issues invisible to me.

I know myself, and know I don’t take criticism well. So my reaction surprised me. I took a deep breath and thought, “I’ve got it.” Yes, I need to keep all I’ve learned in the back of my mind while writing, but I need first and foremost to remember who I am writing for. I am not writing for other writers; I’m writing for people who want to read from the 9 – 14 year-old point of view. I am writing for horse people. This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t care about the craft of writing, but it definitely helped me refocus. And when I look at the rest of my work in progress, I’m hoping this realization will help me forge the way ahead.

Yes, I’d also read along the way the importance of critiques and critique groups, but this is one that I had to learn through personal experience. If anyone else has critique story or advice to share, please do.

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