A Writer’s “Brain Trust” and the Review Process
November is almost over (also known as the month of hell by some writers and non-writers alike) and by now, you might have close to 50,000 words of baby novel. If you’re like me, you might be looking at it with sideways eyes, not sure what the hell is going on or if you even want to finish it. Maybe it’s time to get a second (third! fourth! fifth!) opinion? Other people reading your work-in-progress can offer some priceless advice, and even inspire you.
Every writer needs a brain trust. I like this term better than “group-of-friends/trusted-writers-who-can-give-you-constructive-criticism.” According to Wikipedia –
The term is most associated with the group of advisers to Franklin Roosevelt during his presidential administration. More recently the use of the term has expanded to encompass any group of advisers to a decision maker, whether or not in politics.
Who do you ask to read your stories or other creative pieces after you’ve written the first draft? Also, where do you draw the line between following another person’s advice and following your own creative pull?
After you’ve written something that you think has publishing potential, one of the first things you should do is put it away for a few days to a week, maybe longer. You might feel differently about the story after some time has passed. You’ll find things in the story that you want to change, or you’ll notice minute details that need tweaking. You’ll most definitely find typos, missing words or double-typed words. Your piece is ready to meet your brain trust once you’ve done some polishing.
If you don’t know any other writers in person, there are forums and other sites where other writers and avid readers will be happy to review your writing for free. Writing.com is one that I’m familiar with. I’ve gotten some great feedback and invaluable help from people who took the time to write detailed reviews.
If you’re lucky enough to know someone who is truthful and knows good writing when they read it, then hand it over to them. Hand it over to several different people and ask for their opinions.
The advice you use from these reviews is up to you, but if you’re not sure what to do, here are some loose guidelines:
~ Sometimes something you write might make sense to you, but not to someone else.
~ If you have a solid reason for something in the story that doesn’t make sense to someone, try explaining your reasoning within the story without intruding on the flow of the story.
~ If the sentences are choppy or do not flow, it can disrupt the story. You might only need to break up the sentences or connect a few very short ones. If a few of the sentences are short for dramatic effect, leave them them that way. Follow your gut in these instances. In general, the sentence structures and lengths should vary from sentence to sentence.
~ Maybe you made your prose a little too flowery — If you get this complaint, ask yourself if it matches the drama of the situation. Flamboyant writing or pretentious words in a mundane scene or situation might make the reader feel like you’re trying to compensate.
Sometimes you might have something great on your hands, but you’re so caught up in the creation of it (and making sure it’s as awesome as possible) that you can’t see how great it really is. I’ve written things in the past that I didn’t think were that good, and then a few months later I’ll revisit it and be all “What was my problem? This is isn’t too shabby…”, but there’s always room for improvement.
Have anything to add about the revision process?