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!


Jeanne C. said...

I would love to be able to "critique" a book! How does one go about doing that? Also, how does one go about "reviewing" a new book?
Thanks for sharing,

Peg said...

Wishing you only positive feedback and looking forward to reading the book when it's published.

Camille Minichino said...

Jeanne, if you're a writer you probably belong to organizations and have critiquers of your own.

I'm guessing you're a reader -- do you belong to any book clubs that are facilitated by an author? Do you attend book signings or events where you would meet authors?

Sisters in Crime is an org. for readers and writers. If you have a local chapter I suggest you join and meet others like you. It's a great way to meet others like you and opportunities will present themselves.

Let me know if any of this helps or what other Q I can answer.

Camille Minichino said...

Thanks, Peg!

My next book (too late for critique!) is MONSTER IN MINIATURE, due April 6. It's the 5th in the miniature mysteries.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I rely on my critiquers, too, Camille. I've several whose comments I have really learned to value. When I write a story, even if I let it sit for a while before final editing, it's so easy to miss things or to write something that may make perfect sense to me but not work as well for anyone else. It's great that your nonfiction-reading husband looks over your stuff. Mine doesn't!

Camille Minichino said...

It always amazes me how some "typos" get by about 20 people!

Letting it sit really helps, Linda, as you say.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Camille, do you also have beta readers? Or do you just let people read stuff toward the end of the process?

Camille Minichino said...

I give to people at every stage, Joanna. I have a regular dream critique group of 4 published mystery writers and we meet about twice a month and have the greatest sessions.

Then I have friends who like to brainstorm all through the process though they may not necessarily read.

Finally, coming up, when the draft is as good as I can make it, about a dozen more people get the whole ms. Some of these are 'experts' who gave me help and are willing to vet it; others just interested readers.

SO, by the time it gets to my editor it has been through a lot and there's not much rewrite, which, of course, is the whole idea.

Betty Hechtman said...

What is a beta reader?

It sounds like you have a wonderful network of people around you, Camille.

Camille Minichino said...

I think of a beta reader as being like a beta tester for a new product, like a DVD player or a computer code.

Companies use testers to find bugs and identify design flaws, e.g., before they sell the product to the broader market.

Camille Minichino said...

And, yes, Betty the SF Bay Area has SUCH a great mystery community of writers and readers.

Like LA, I'm sure.

Within about a half hour drive from my home, I can go to meetings of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, California Writers Club (actually 3 nearby branches of CWC), and Romance Writers of America.

Monica Ferris said...

Amazon.com welcomes amateur reviewers Jeanne C. It's a good place to get your feet wet in the reviewing business. Joining Sisters in Crime is another way, as you'll meet both published and pre-published authors, some of whom may wish to use you as a critic.