The lovely Jennifer Talty has done me a great service just recently, she gave me a short critique on one of my scenes. She had written saying that her interest had been piqued at how I was describing a nightmare scene that I had done. At first I wasn't going to send it to her as I have been wanting to finish the first draft before having anyone really see it. But she was keen and in the end I'm glad I sent it to her.
I made no bones about the fact that the scene was pretty much straight from my brain onto the paper without the benefit of any editing. At first I thought I had done the wrong thing by sending her an un-edited version of my brain dump. As it turns out the things she has picked up on I don't think I would have fixed in an edit anyway. And I agree with everything she has shown me.
So what advice has Jennifer given me?
1st: I need to watch the length of a lot of my sentences. They can be too long, with too many commas, when shorter sentences can give more impact to what I am doing.
2nd: I need my protagonist to be a bit more involved. This was supposed to be a powerful scene where he was witnessing something quite disturbing. I had failed to show what he was going through mentally and physically and instead left him almost a viewer of his own scene.
3rd: She picked up on a couple of instances where I had really overstated what was happening when it was already quite obvious.
4th: She rearranged a couple of sentences for me to show how they could have greater impact compared to how I had done it.
And heaps of other ideas, tips and techniques.
Being shown those things has really opened my eyes. They are great suggestions, she has spotted stupid mistakes I have been making AND she gave me examples in every case of how it can be improved. So you're probably thinking I'm now going to go back and re-write that scene and make it perfect and glowing using all of Jennifer's recommendations. Well if you are, you would be wrong.
No, Jennifer hasn't wasted her time, quite the opposite. She has basically opened my eyes to some things I sub-consciously already knew were there, and some other things I hadn't realised at all. These are all going to be featured in some form or other throughout this entire manuscript.
So instead of trying to fix this up now and possibly end up stalling myself in the process, I will be sticking with Plan A and forging ahead to finish this first draft of my book. From this point on I will most certainly be conscious of what Jennifer has said, and trying to apply wherever possible, but at the same time it's even more important to get this draft finished and put to bed than it is trying to make it a literary masterpiece in this first run.
Jennifer, I am indebted to you. I asked for an opinion and most certainly got one. Your delivery was great and I wasn't at any point thinking, "Who the hell is she trying to tell me how to write." (although my reply email might have got her on the back foot momentarily (hehehe)). Certainly once the second draft is done you will be getting the whole schlamoo in one hit and you will see where these silly ideas have come from.