Saturday, April 28, 2007
The Value of a Good Critique
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to someone very special, J.D. Williams, who is listed on the acknowledgments page of The Longevity Thesis as Antronos' godfather. He is the author of several manuscripts, including Remote Eyes, The Thulean Vanguard (my favorite), and Ten Spirits, and is currently shopping around for just the right publisher.
As strange as it may seem, J.D. and I have never met, not face to face anyway. We are both former members of the online Critter's Group, which introduced us to each other, and fatefully placed the first nascent chapters of The Longevity Thesis into J.D.'s hands.
Back then, the novel was called The Divine Prerogative, and it was dreck. Drivel. Doggiedoo. A complete waste of pixels and hard drive space. Despite this, J.D. plowed through the entire manuscript, more than once and suggested some very radical changes, which I am very glad I made, since it undeniably whipped the manuscript into shape. After J.D. was done, I no longer cringed when I read my own writing, but rather felt a profound satisfaction that the story was finally as it was meant to be.
J.D. recommended that I delete two entire plot threads and about half the characters. He also suggested one very significant change that drastically altered the novel and snapped it into focus: the amalgamation of two characters, Opalena and Ranull, into one. Opalena was initially pure, cardboard-cut-out evil and Ranull was fluffy saccharine sweetness. The result was a much more well rounded, believable character who ended up being far more integral to the story than ever intended. He wouldn't let me get away with a single hanging plot element, and constantly reminded me to watch my horrific propensity to indulgently add several unnecessary and ineloquent adverbs/adjectives. (Does that last sentence bring back memories, J.D.?) These, he told me, were "Vampire Adjectives". They break into your home, mess up your cupboards and eat all your potato chips. Not to mention leach the meaning from your sentences. It was not until these changes were made that I could even begin to see what needed to be done to shape what was until then only a series of events, into an actual novel.
The moral of the story is, when you get walloped over the head with a good critique, don't resist it. The result is definitely worth the pain.