Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Anita's Attic: Voices in Your Ear

After Liz's wonderful blog yesterday about which battles to fight on edits, I started thinking about all the changes I've made to Awaken the Highland Warrior because of someone else's opinion. We all know how valuable an outside perspective is to our writing, because we just can't see everything that's there or that isn't there. I find myself thinking something is on the page because in my head it was all laid out nice and pretty, when in fact I'd zoned out and left a gaping hole.

Liz talked about editors and handling edits. I ran into this with edits on both the first and second books of the secret warrior series. Most of the time, I found my editor was right, at least partially. Even if I didn't think so at first, once I really thought it over, her suggestions made sense. There were some exceptions. She'll never like suspense as much as I do, and I suspect she'll always battle me on that. I didn't like the publisher changing the title from Awaken the Warrior to Awaken the Highland Warrior, but I understand why they did, and it probably will sell more books. I didn't like changing my wonderful cliffhanger ending in book one to a smaller cliffhanger, but I listened and I compromised.

But it isn't just editors who are voices in our ear. We have critique partners, beta readers, and our agent. When Christine first signed me, after she'd gone through my story thoroughly, it was like the old cliche'...new writers should just cut the first chapter because they usually start the story too soon. Sure enough, she told me to cut the first chapter. I liked that chapter. It showed the discovery of the treasure map and the heroine putting together the clues and her eerie journey through the graveyard to find her treasure. BUT, when I cut it, I saw that Christine was right. My first chapter was lovely, but it slowed the pace down too much for my genre.

We also have critique partners who are so important, but this is where my question comes today. I only have one critique partner. Most of you have met Dana. I don't know what I'd do without her. She knows what I'm thinking even when I can't express it. She reins me in when I'm going into left field and kicks my plot in the butt when I'm not empowering it enough. So, how do you manage more than one CP? Or horror of horrors, an entire critique group. I know people who say they have groups that send out so many pages per month. I've never understood how those writers have time to write if they're spending so much time critiquing other writers' work. And the bigger question: How do those writers deal with the number of voices chiming in on a story? I've heard writers talk about their story getting so watered down with so many opinions that the story became perfectly dull, not even their story anymore. And editors saying they could tell a story had been critique partnered to death because it had no voice. I'm curious. If anyone has several CP's, does it get confusing? Is it a brilliant editing tool that I'm missing? I would love to know.

14 comments:

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Great post, Anita. My original CP our very own Barbie Jo is still my CP today. We work so well together and know each others strenghts and weaknesses. The only thing we have to worry about is sounding too much like each other. Sometimes our agent will say, "This is a Barbie comment or a Kari comment, isn't it?" So now we pay close attention to make sure we sound like ourselves.

Barb and I have been in a couple of different critique groups, and I can tell you it's not easy juggling it all. And in the end the conflicting voices didn't work. The only other CP we've ever kept is another BC Babe, Danielle LaBue. She jumps in when she can, but Barb and I live just a mile a part, so we get to meet a lot more often.

Liz Lipperman said...

Sorry, I can't play, either since I only have one CP. I do think you need to listen to your CPs opinion, but remember it isn't bible. I only have one CP, and like Kari and Barbie, we write a lot alike. We send each other a chapter at a time and do line edits. Sometimes I use her suggestions; sometimes, I don't, although more times than not, I do. She has a way of looking at what I wrote and condensing it. (I do tend to be wordy.)Our favorite thing to write is WTF? No other words are needed when you see this in big red letters.

After I finish a manuscript, I send it in its entirety to 2-3 beta readers (fellow writers) who read it in one clip. Then Christine gets her hands on it!!!!

'Nuff said.

Jo Crosier said...

What a great post! And I often find voices in my head that don't belong to my CPs!

I'm doing a graduate program at Seton Hill University and the way the program is structured, you have a mentor (professor) reader and two critique partners the first term. Then the second term, you get two new CPs, but keep the same mentor, the third term (which I'm entering now), I'll have two new CPs and a new mentor - so that's a total of eight critiques on the same MS (though not usually on the same pages). And I'll say it's been tough at times to wade through all of the input from three people at once on the same 30 pages, and critiquing 40-100 pages a month while taking other classes and working! But... I find I really like seeing how the story lands with different people and I know I value some of the CPs suggested offerings more than others because of their writing style or type of input. But in the end... I'm pretty strong-willed, so I think even under the weight of eight-plus sets of eyes on my MS, it still all sounds like me and I only take suggestions I agree with... and if I agree with them, then change them, and they suck, I can always switch back again.

Lori said...

I have one person I bounce ideas off of, and I have a writers group. We meet once a week for two hours and read a portion of whatever we're working on at the time. Some of the group serms pages ahead for those who need it. I also have a few beta readers, mostly I trust my instincts unless I receive several of the same comments. I find the reading out loud the most beneficial, more so when I do it for the group, I have a more critical ear and often hear what the others point out before they open their mouths.

Anita Clenney said...

Kari, sounds like Dana and I. We work so well together. I just don't think I could handle an entire group.

Anita Clenney said...

Liz, you had me laughing at WTF! Sometimes what we put on the page just doesn't out right.

Anita Clenney said...

Jo, at least you aren't getting all the voices at once. I think that would make it a more helpful experience. I'm sure it will be interesting to see how things work with a new mentor.

Anita Clenney said...

Lori, having a group where you can read somthing you're having problems with and have suggestions tossed out would be great. I could handle that. I just don't think I could handle doing pages and pages of critiques for several people. And in the end, it is your story.

Cassy Pickard said...

This is such a tough area. It is so easy to doubt yourself. Thank God we have a thoughtful and concerned group. When I did my doctoral dissertation I had to please everyone on mty committee. No choice. There was a wicked weekend when my full statical analysis was mandated to be redone in 36 hours with the full write up. Then, oops, not necessary. We are so lucky to have buiilt a community who really want our work to grow and succeed.

Neecy said...

This is a great post! As an aspired author, I have come far, thanks to my CP's, and classes I've taken. I don't know where I'd be without them.
Thanks for sharing,
Neecy

Anita Clenney said...

Yikes, Cassy. I agree, we're lucky to have so much access to help. We all need outside opinions, and if I had time to reciprocate, I'd probably join a huge critique group, but I just don't have the time.

Anita Clenney said...

Neecy, we all need help. It's impossible for writers to objectively see what's on the page. We're too close to the work.

Shanon Grey said...

My husband has always been my most severe CP. He once edited an article I wrote with a pair of scissors! I was furious, calling him everything I could think of as I pieced it back together for the morning deadline. Left out a paragraph. Tightened it right up. Never did tell him. That said, although it's hard to hear, I give it twenty-four hours before I lop of heads. Just kidding. I don't know what I'd do without them. Thanks for the blog.

Anita Clenney said...

Shanon. Oh my, I bet you were ready to kill him. My husband gives me some great feedback on my stories.