Years ago when I first started writing, I wrote short drama sketches for my church. The first one got published and every one after that. Then I turned my hand to novels. After a few months and 125,000 words, I found an online critique group.
When I received my first critique, I discovered I knew nothing but good dialogue ... and I mean nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zip. I'd never heard of POV and had no idea what it even meant. Show don't tell?? Why can’t I use a plethora of adverbs? Omniscient is something God is.
I didn't have any problem accepting the hard critiques. The difference was, while they were hard, I never saw them as harsh. It's all a matter of POV. I wanted to learn. I read those critiques from the POV of being taught - not attacked.
We need to trust that our critique partners won't let us get away with anything less than our best. We should grow to the point where we don't need compliments. The highest compliment I can receive from my CPs is getting back a chapter with no suggestions or corrections. I think that’s only happened once.
How do we do give the best critiques? Read with an editor's eye and a sister-in-Christ's heart:
the mindset that God deserves our best not our leftovers. When I’m lazy and don’t feel like thinking up a new meal, I fix leftovers. I even tell myself I’m being thrifty. That might be fine with food—but not in our writing.
What are literary leftovers?
1. Not removing superfluous adverbs in contrast to spending an extra twenty minutes looking for just the right verb.
2. Not knowing your characters well enough to communicate their hurts and motivation.
3. Not investing the time required to get the character's motivation shown-not-told on the page.
4. Using clichés or over-used metaphors
5. Recycling a great metaphor or simile without changing it.
6. Using the same old conflict over and over. In romance, if miscommunication is the only conflict, that’s week-old-moldy-green leftovers.
7. Not always striving to grow as a writer.
Even if you've already got an agent, have been close to a contract, or you’re published, you can still get a low score on a contest entry. Fiction is subjective. We all know that. But instead of ruffling your quills in indignation, change your personal POV. See teaching not attacking. You'll be glad you did. You'll add another layer to your rhino skin, and you'll be more willing to kill your darlings. It’s all a matter of your POV.
Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She's an award-winning bestselling novelist, a multi-published playwright and contributor to the award-winning blog, The Write Conversation. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler who thinks he’s a teddy bear. While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). Ane firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Her passion when she isn't writing her Southern-fried Fiction, is Community Theatre. She's Creative Director of Players Guild@Sugar Hill, an avocational non-profit theatre group, where she and her husband act, direct, build sets, and are chief gofors. Contributor to the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and a wooly mammoth. You can find Ane on her website and blog: http://www.anemulligan.com. If you'd like to see a map of Chapel Springs showing you where all the characters live, visit http://www.anemulligan.com
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