Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Progress Report #9 – Criticism: “You can’t handle the truth!”

One of the greatest gifts a friend can give a writer is the truth about their work. This is well beyond the agreement to read the draft manuscript. It is to take time, out of their busy life, to not only read the story but to try and dissect and understand the intent of the writer. There are “for hire” editors out there that are very good, but they do remind me of the hired guns brought into a town to clean up the lawless mess, often leaving a larger one when they leave. How much do they assert their personalities into the work and how much do they leave for the writer? With a real hard content edit how much is left for the author to claim as their own?

Thank heaven for the few brave readers that love reading and understand the art. Some are friends, others are in book clubs, and others are in workshops and writer’s studios. But to have someone take the time to take notes, question characters, think of the overall picture; they are treasures. For my forthcoming novel Elk River I was thrilled to have a friend offer a list of constructive criticisms.
Some were:
  • Can you strengthen the links between the survivors of World War II and damage that the war caused to them physically, emotionally, and culturally, even though, if there ever was a “good” war, this was it?
  • As a coming of age story, when the young discover that their parents know all about drugs, sex, aging, it really ticks them off – expand on this.
  • Need more character development (a universal comment by editors), what’s too much, then what? Did the grandmother actually dance at the Ziegfeld Follies, why did she leave?
  • The story takes place in three months during the summer of 1956, you have put too much into the story, too many deaths are thrown around. This is not Stephen King. I’ll see on a death by death basis and the Andrea Doria did sink in the July, 1956.
  • Be careful on character introductions, they can’t be parachuted in (maybe, maybe not).
  • The migrant family (the pickers) needs more development (the hardness of their lives, what holds them together), what can your lead character learn from them?
  • And at the drive-in movie don’t have them bring their own popcorn; it’s always more fun to go the snack shop that glowed like a nuclear waste dump in the middle of a parking lot, than to eat homemade.
  • Be careful of cute throwaways that don’t contribute to the thrust of the story.
  • Increase the tension (again, another universal comment). What is looming beyond the main character’s reach and understanding, will it harm him, will he overcome it?
  • And believe it or not, there is much she loves about the story, so back to the keyboard.
These were just a few of the comments, all add to the overall texture and thrust of the story. To be honest I can’t wait to get back to next iteration and revision, there is actually someone I am now writing to. And I want to thank my friend from the bottom of my heart.

Containers 4 Death
Revised cover and text to the printer, out last Tuesday, new proof coming, then printing. And THANK YOU to those who have purchased the ebook version from Amazon and the other usual suspects.

Toulouse 4 Death
I’m at 22,000 words, and research is exciting, especially on the Nazis that escaped Europe after World War II. My two main characters are off to Paris to find the prize that is sought by everyone. Then back to the U.S., but will the gov’ment want their bit? Will the SS want it all? And what about the stolen art, will it be returned? Even I’m excited to find out.

More later . . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment