Substantial Critique or Edit: How do you COPE?

It is pretty inevitable that if you write anything longer than a grocery list, you will be faced at some point with a substantial edit or critique of your work. Sometimes when I am undergoing this trial by fire, I sort of wish I HAD written a grocery list.

Especially when the critique is one that is, shall we say, not so positive?

substantial critique or edit
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At the close up view of the work, it is a good story. It has merit, and the voice is true. The characters keep on track with being who they are, but — there may be too many of them.

The main plot is workable, tolerable even, but seems watered down by having too many smaller sub-plots and none of them have conflict enough to feed a flea. Ruh-roh.

There are a lot of points in the story that do not stand up to the scrutiny of the plausibility index. In other words, that ain’t happening bub.

Does any of this sound familiar?

What does an author do when this happens?

Three things to remember:

1. the story belongs to the author, not the editor nor critter

2. change CAN be good, and oftentimes makes a stronger story

3. sometimes just leaving it alone and not reading it for a week or so helps

After you have rested from the epic-fail-of-the-story-stage, get ready to roll up your sleeves and go to work. Rethink that plot. What else can you do? If you were telling this story to a friend, how could you embellish it? How can you make it harder for the main character to achieve their story goal?

Go back and find all those implausible places and find a way to make them work, or cut them out like a rotten piece of apple. Better to be minus a few pages of unimaginable text than have a book that someone throws against the wall.

And those characters? Roll three into one. Make that sassy girl with the freckles become your heroine, and that guy with the lock of hair that won’t behave-turn him into your antagonist, and get rid of everyone in that story who doesn’t have a major role. If they HAVE to stay, then make them work harder. Make the story sag without them. (and have you noticed how sub-characters ALWAYS get the best lines? what’s up with that??)

Oh yeah, just to make you feel better, I am going through this too. Loran Rudder and the Secret Key is probably NOT coming out on June 1. But who wants to read a story with issues that could have been fixed before it came out?

In today’s world we have to make our books shine like new copper pennies. Yes, me and you and anyone out there who wants to be remembered.

About master

Kim Smith is the author of Disk of Death, The Dread Room, Love Inn, and An Unexpected Performance.

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