Thursday, 18 January 2007

A Fresh Set of Eyes

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.

Thank you.


Kari Lee Townsend said...

Yay, Oz!!!!

This is the beauty of writers!

We give back!! You could be the most amazing storytelling, with an awesome, unique voice, but the craft can sometimes get in the way. It can pull the reader right out of the story.

But how do you learn craft??? You read it in books, enter writing contests for feedback, study the craft of others. Or, if you're lucky enough, you have a brilliant writer who's willing to help you out.

When I was first starting out, I found that I thought I understood the rules I was reading, but when I went to apply it to my own writing, I got stuck. To have someone not only point out the things you are doing wrong, but also give you examples from your own work on how to fix it, is invaluable.

And you are so right on puking out the first draft. You have to, or else your plot will suffer. Get down what it is you have to say, and then go back over the whole thing with a fresh eye.

Good luck ;-)

PS. You're just too darn cute, I'm using your description for one of the hero's in my series. Hope you don't mind ;-))))

OzWriter said...

Morning Kari,

Jennifer has been such a great help with what she has told me. I kmow my writing will be much better for it.

A hero in a story? He better be a surly, moody bastard with a taste for whiskey ;-)


Jennifer Talty said...


First, your reply e-mail. Yeah, that was kind of mean. Funny, but man, you had me going. :)

I'm glad I could help. I'm glad you're sticking with your plan and charging forward with the rest of the book. Like I said before, raw material is good. That's how you sort through what fits, what doesn't, am I getting this character right, does it make sense? And a whole lot more.

You are not indebted to me. I did it because I wanted to. I've always believed you can only keep what you have, by giving it away. We writers help each other out. Believe it or not, you've been helping me too.

And your ideas are not silly. And since I have read your work, I can now tell the world, watch out, Oz is coming!

Really, you have a gift. Storytelling. Finish your story I egearly await the finished product in any form.

Your Friend,


Jennifer Talty said...

And Kari - Oh Man. I'm shaking me head on this one. Speechless. Have you no shame? Didn't we discuss this yesterday? Geez.

And to think I was going to use the surly moody bastard with a taste for whiskey in my next book.

OzWriter said...

Thanks again Jen.

Some days I do wonder if what I am writing will be any good, and then other days I think something I have done is the shiz. So a constant roller coaster.

The difference this time round is when I am feeling down, that it's not working, who would read this crap etc, I just keep forging ahead regardless. When I have tried to write years ago, as soon as I was on that downswing it was the end of the book.

Now I know that eventually my mood swings the other way as I get into a more interesting scene or piece of dialogue so it makes it all worth while.


Jennifer Talty said...


I always wonder if what I'm writing is any good. I worry constantly. I've been told time and time again that I have one of these voices that people either love or hate. I once entered a contest where I got a 24/100 and a 86?/100. Something higher up there. This use to totally freak me out. But people like Kari kept telling me that having a strong voice is a good thing. I think I finally believe her. Shhhh, don't tell her that.

You're talented. You have a story to tell, no go tell it.

I know, I'm supposed to be writing - deadlines and all (still love saying that) :).



Kari Lee Townsend said...

Ohhhhhhhh you've just given me great material, Oz. A surly, moody bastard with a taste for whiskey.....and he's a writer. Got it.

And no, Jen, NO, I have no shame. This is just too good not to use. Our hero's will have different names, jobs, etc. No one will know.....except Oz ;-)

Poor, Oz. The plans we have for him. Hee, hee!!!!

Sarah Grimm said...

I'm with you, Jen. They either love me or hate me.

OzWriter, we all constantly question ourselves. Then when we're really wondering we send it to someone like Jen (i just did this, actually) with email headings that read 'Does this suck?'

You're on the right track, just keep writing. I'm still not all that good at that.

Barbie Jo said...

Jen gives great feedback. Why? Because she shoots from the hip and tells it to you like it is. No sugar coating there!

You're so right to keep pushing through. If you went back to page one, you would definitely get held up in "re-writing hell". We've all been there. How many times have we re-worked that first chapt, or 2 or 3 trying to make them "perfect"? I've learned with my YA, puke it out and while your puking give the chapts to my critique partners for feedback, "skim" their feedback for any pertinent problem areas, but don't correct them... continue puking and repeat until finished. THEN, like Kari said, it's a fresh eye from page one.

People think it's soooo easy to write a book, but it's such a process, and a learning process to boot. I think as long as you've got people to support you thru your journey, getting through those "moments" is a lot easier.

Looks to me like you've got a bunch of supporters here. Or wait... are we Oz Groupies???

enjoy the day! Or night.... (I'm no good with time zones) :D

OzWriter said...

Morning Ladies,

Thanks for all the great comments.

It's 9am Saturday as I write this, so am hoping to get a 3,000 word day under my belt. I'm not quite in the home stretch yet, but I think I am rounding the final turn.

Keep an eye out for a post in the next day or two about writing addiction...


OzWriter said...

Well it's just gone 1:15pm, I've done 2,000 words, had lunch and think I will take a break for a little while. Another 1,000 shouldn't be too hard to pop out later this afternoon.


Jennifer Talty said...

You keep "popping" out those words! I'll keep pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to re-write this dang book so it works!

Oh, and it's 10:44pm on Friday. I have no life.