Sunday, January 27, 2008

At the risk of repeating myself, I wanted to write about critiques in general and specifically what a wonderful group INK is and how privileged I feel to be a part of them.  

Steve is a picky reader, especially when it comes to internal consistency.  When he has trouble with the logic of a particular scene, I listen very carefully.  I don't want to become that author who writes about characters that do stupid things because it serves the plot.  I especially don't want to become that author with implausible happenings, ridiculous solutions and character motivations that make absolutely no sense.  He is also our only man.  I hope he doesn't start to suffer from estrogen poisoning at our meetings, because I really need that testosterone perspective, particularly since lately I've been writing male pov characters.

Carole is my eye-roller reader.  She doesn't technically 'do' fantasy, or to look at it another way, she prefers dark fantasy and magic realism.  She's my oh puke reader, and if I'm not making her puke there's a very good chance my writing could reach mainstream readers.  She's also a detail reader.  She's done so many jobs and been enough different places that she has tons of facts packed into her head, while having the valuable skill of being able to discriminate between what I mean versus what a reader who is unfamiliar with said item will hear.  For example, it never occurred to me that a reader would think that even the leaves on a bougainvillea vine would be red when I'm talking about papery carmine bougainvillea vines.  Not only did I assume everyone had seen them but I also looked like an idiot if someone had seen them (like CS) and thought I hadn't and had mis-described them from ignorance.  BTW, Carole, I have a baker character in the next book.  I'm looking forward to your impression of him and his workspace.

Carissa is my form and function reader.  If it has no function, she suggests eliminating it.  If the form is flawed, she catches it.  She also helps with things like details and character motivations, but where she really shines as a reader is as a surrogate editor.  She has read so much fantasy (and continues to read fantasy regularly) that she'll catch it if I'm falling into cliche'.  She also gets impatient with my writing in many of the same ways that editors get impatient with writing.  Their time is valuable.  As a rule they don't like excess wordage, extraneous scenes, scenes that go on too long, characters that have no purpose, expository lumps, etc.  No matter how carefully I disguise them (even from myself) Carissa catches them.  If a description passes muster with her, I'm confident that it'll pass muster with darned near anyone.

I had a really good critique, as always, on Masks with INK this last meeting.  I learned that I'd butchered what probably had been a perfectly fine fight scene before I 'streamlined' (read, took out too much for anyone to follow the action) it, that I'd turned my intelligent character into an unsympathetic hormonal mess, that I'd removed too much calculation in a character's reasoning and turned a dark scene into a mini-buddy movie that lacked chemistry, and many other things.  I also got some great brain-storming ideas that will have repercussions across two, maybe all three of the trilogy that Masks begins.

I sometimes worry that you think you're playing second hat to the Lucky Labs (who I'm also very, very grateful to,) so here's my note of appreciation and reassurance.  You're great readers, and you are all so definitely going to be in the acknowledgements.  Without my readers, I'd be a much less effective writer, no doubt about it.  You also have the horrible job of checking every blessed little tiny scrap of crap I write.  From my bios and cover letters to synopses and outlines, nothing goes out without an INK okay.  You also listen to my endless yammering on WIPs and bleeding characters and plotlines.  We've become more than a critique group.  We're a team, a business venture, and I'm very glad to be a part of you.  Thanks, INK!  You're the best.


Carissa said...

Ditto, Kami.

And thanks. I'm glad my fussiness is useful. I'm thankful for the chance to read over your writing, especially now that we've been doing this awhile. It is so awesome to watch as we all grow as writers. I can't wait for that day (and I know it's coming soon) when we'll be proofing each others contracts and toasting the sale of a story or novel!

And to finish off the group: Kami is an awesome Big Picture reader, who catches themes (or lack thereof) and points out the inconstinencies of the plot or characters with a professional articulation that doesn't make it feel like your story is being dissected into tiny little bits. She's excellent at finding just the right way to tidy a piece and she can pull out a cliche and turn it into gold without breaking a sweat. She's also a fount of ideas, and brainstorming with her is always a great deal of fun (though it tends to lead to even more stories begging to be written).

INK rocks.

Carole said...

Gosh, I don't know what to say other than to thank Kami and Ris for having the patience to shape me into something resembling a writer and for being interested in helping form INK in the first place. I'm still in complete awe of you two and I too can't wait for the day when we'll be toasting each other's sales (because I know we'll have many, many of them).

INK indeed rocks.