Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Life is but a ream
I'm closing in on a complete draft of a novel. Now the fun begins, when I send out copies of the draft to readers for critique. My ongoing group has seen it, chapter by chapter, word by word, over the course of many weeks. But now it will go to "cold" readers who have no preconceived idea of it (or vested interest in seeing if I've taken their advice!)
I send to a large number of very cooperative relatives, friends, and experts whom I've consulted on various threads in the book, but the first person to see the complete draft is my husband. The reason: he never reads fiction—he's all tied up with Engineering News, the Wall Street Journal, and back issues of Photoshop and other computer magazines.
The value of getting input from someone who reads only nonfiction lies precisely in his lack of knowledge of fiction protocols. He's not bothered by character arcs or an inappropriate objective correlative. He skips descriptions of the babbling brook; he doesn't care whether the trees on the street are elms or palms. And he certainly doesn't pay attention to what a character is wearing or eating. He just reads straight through for the logic and consistency of the plot.
Which is exactly what I need before I go back and add a few adjectives and leit motifs.
I put a lot of stock in what all my critiquers tell me. If someone suggests, "She should be wearing a red dress not a blue one in the first chapter," for example, I might not change the dress to red, but I will certainly look carefully at that first appearance and make some change so that the offending outfit is removed.
Some of my readers are would-be copyeditors and will find a missing quotation mark or article; some take the long view and let me know what works and what doesn't in the story as a whole; some simply say, "I like this scene," or "I don't like this scene," in which case it's up to me to figure out what's wrong.
I'm immensely grateful to all of them, to anyone who has ever critiqued my book, and—you know who you are—get ready for the next one!