There is Value in All Critique

I feel bad that it has taken me this long to write this post. While I do believe there were parts of the critique I got at NorWesCon that could have been better, I did get value out of it. This post is specifically about that value.

The 9,400 words the panel got included probably the most boring 8,000 words I’ve written for my novella. I am very bad at beginnings, especially for sci-fi or fantasy worlds when I feel the need to get explanations about the world in. The very first thing they read was essentially a guy reading an encyclopedia entry. BORING! So I need to re-write my first meeting scenes, the ones where the reader first meets each character and the one where the main characters first meet each other. There needs to be action, not just expository.

To go along with that, readers now a days are much more picky about their science fiction worlds. I need to make sure the science of my world, climate, ecology, how the moons, work, etc, is possible. Even if my work is a tribute to a style of fantasy that was popular in the late 1970s and early 80s, I need to write it for today’s readers. I cannot get away with the same shortcuts.

Each of my main characters has a secret, something they are trying to hide from each other. And there is a consequence to others finding out their secrets. However, their secrets are, in no way, on the same level. One is personal and one is the fate of the world. That means they do not balance, and while the characters do not know each other’s secrets for most of the story, I need to find a way to make the lesser secret have a deeper emotional impact so that the readers just don’t write it off.

To go along with that, in the critique of my synopsis, it was pointed out that in some ways, I let my characters off the hook. I was not making them face the full consequences of their actions and their secrets. I cannot do that. I cannot go easy on my characters. That does the reader a disservice. I must make them face their fears. The consequences of their actions must be real, they must be felt by the characters and by the readers. That means they must be felt by me. I cannot go easy on myself. Authors have to make hard choices. I have to make one here.

These are important notes to make. Notes I probably would have come up with eventually, but in all honesty, in some cases it is easier to get them before some of those scenes are written. As it is, I’ve already rewritten the first scene of the story. It still has a bit too much expository, but it is much better than it was before. I think I want to get the rest of my first meeting scenes rewritten, too, but after that, I need to hold off on the rewrites.

I need to move forward with the novella as I now want it to be. I need to get a complete first draft, even if there are inconsistencies between early scenes and late scenes. I will know the inconsistencies exist, and I will fix them on second, third, and later passes. The important part for me is simply to get the whole thing down, beginning to end. Because the truth is, I’ve never completed a story over 10,000 words before.

If I can write the whole thing, I can edit the whole thing. But if I start editing the beginning too much, the rest may never get written.


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