A while back I did a post on Editing Your Novel, and one of the tactics that I talked about was sending the first chapter of my middle draft to be critiqued. I decided to use the N.C. Writer’s Network excellent critique service, because I am a member of NCWN.
I received the critique yesterday, and I am greatly heartened. I had problem areas such as putting too many issues for the reader in the first chapter. That had been one of my major concerns, so as I was re-reading the chapter, I starting looking for information that could be cut from the first chapter and placed in subsequent chapters. I found several plot lines and character introductions that could easily be shifted to another portion of the novel.
My OWW critique friend, Valerie, will love this part of the critique: I got dinged on setting again. I tend not to put enough description of the setting in my scenes. I tease people and tell them that if I was a playwright, my stage settings would consist of an empty chair and a stage. I want you to focus on my characters and their issues, not what I see as superficial information. However, I will be going back in and putting more description in the first chapter, especially about the city so my reader has a clear picture of the setting.
I over-used the following sentence construction with “there was/were,” something that is easily fixed now that I am aware of it. Would I have been aware of this problem without a professional critique? No.
Those were the major issues. I won’t bore you with the minor ones. My grammar issues weren’t major and that was an enormous relief.
So why was I heartened by this critique? I was told that readers would find my characters and plot compelling. I was told that the hook worked.
Does this mean I’m sending out invitations to the pre-publication party? No!
This means I need to buckle down and work. I need to make notes of the information that I plan to relocate and make sure that information is placed in the appropriate chapter. I need to examine every place where my editor changed my sentence construction and understand why. I need to look at every word change, every comma, and every semi-colon.
Was it worth the money?
I would recommend going with a critique service that you trust and always be sure to check Preditors & Editors before paying anyone to critique your work. I was informed and satisfied with both the reputation of the N.C. Writers’ Network and the gentleman who did my critique prior to sending my chapter.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a little work to do, and when I have chapter one all spiffy and neat, I’ll post it for everyone to see.