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I Think I'm Subverting My Critique Group

Until I came along, my new critique group was just four nice ladies copy-editing each other's draft chapters.

Well, I've been languishing for years on that turd-polishing plateau, and fixing a troubled novel doesn't happen there. Sure, that's where I put in my 10,000 hours learning to wield the language, but I should have moved on ages ago. This critique group wasn't helping, and I was ready to quit.

Two weeks ago I found a path to my next level. It appeared in Shawn Coyne's The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know*.

Coyne's highly analytical method comes from 25 years as a developmental editor at big New York publishers. He's giving away his trade secrets now because even if you get a book contract at Random House, there are no developmental editors left there. It's a DIY game.

Coyne's Story Grid method has given me infrared writing goggles. When I train them on my finished novel, I see dead spots. They leap out in contrast to the warm, living scenes and offer themselves up to be cut. Scenes that are only half-dead practically hold up signs saying "Here's How To Fix Me!"

So I've put my foot down in Critique Group. I can't be wasting my time on other people's commas. No word choice or SPAG correction is going to make a poorly-structured scene work. God knows I've tried.

Instead, I've been looking at the ladies' chapters through the Story Grid goggles and giving them feedback like "There's no arc. What's at stake? The turning point in this scene comes a little too late. You resolved the conflict but you didn't show how...".

And it's working! I'm weaning them away from turd-polishing and towards thinking structurally. And I'm getting better at it myself.

So welcome to the next level. It's a whole new writing adventure.

*Most of the book's content is also available for free on his website, and there's a short video series that introduces his whole method.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 26th, 2015 07:02 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for the link, this sounds really interesting!
Aug. 26th, 2015 06:53 pm (UTC)
It's a very good resource. Not, ironically enough, particularly well-written, but I've forced myself to concentrate on it, and it's paying off.

I've looked at a hell of a lot of writing-help books, blogs and presentations, and 80% of them seem to be about polishing, without any consideration of whether the thing being polished has any structure.

The 20% that delve into structure are all over the map, and this one--for my type of brain and personality, anyway--has been the most helpful.
Aug. 31st, 2015 11:18 pm (UTC)
I want to be in your critique group! :)

Thanks for this great resource.
Aug. 31st, 2015 11:49 pm (UTC)
If we didn't meet in person here in Portland, I'd totally invite you!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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