Friends and Writing Groups

It is said, writing a novel is a lonely job. Maybe so, but we would not succeed without family, friends, writing groups: those who read our drafts and give honest opinions. They save novels and help us clarify characters and improve story content. They ask question that we never thought of. They see things that are perfectly clear in our head, but confuse them.

John and Patrick are reading the final draft of The Children of Akiane, they like it, find it interesting and are looking forward to me finishing the manuscript.

But years ago, when the same story was Ice World, a girlfriend readk the beginning of my novel and said, “I don’t care what happens to the main character.” It was the best thing she could have said to me. My character was boring. I knew I should not be wasting my time with her.

I put the story on the shelf and worked on something else. It sat for a couple of years before I bought it picked it up agian. With the help of a writers’ group, I finally finished it. But it was long enough to inspire a trilogy. Which I considered, and started, but decided against. Once again put it on the shelf.

I returned to it this year, 2012.

Patrick read it first new draft of my novel. He liked the story, but not the main character; well, he did, but he didn’t. She was too negative, too angry all the time. So I changed her. Then John read it and really likes her.

A fair amount of people have read this novel at various stages. I may have written alone, but they have helped made this story a success.

In another incident, in a fantasy novel, I created this furry creature. He was large with a neck that protruded from the top of his chest, not from between his shoulders, he had bat like ears, and his lower jaw was wider than his upper jaw. But I also said he had lose fitting fur and he licked honey from his leather fingers.

My reader friends, who are both have PhDs (I say this so you will know they are intelligent) read fur and honey forgot everything else I’d written and translated my character into a grizzly bear. They both wrote in the margin, “grizzly bears don’t do this.”

A grizzly bear might not, but my fantasy character did.

I could have just said, “Well, they weren’t paying attention to what they were reading.” And they weren’t. But if they both missed it, then so would a thousand other people. Which meant, I was the one who had to change.

I started the scene with, “Oh, look a grizzly bear.” But when the creature turned around, “Oh, no not a bear after all.” ( I’m paraphrasing. I don’t remember my exact words and I don’t feel like looking for them.) I also changed him from licking honey from his fingers to licking blood, from a fresh deer kill, from his fingers.

Those who read our work help clear the forest so we can see each individual tree. Sometimes we are just too close to the story to see our mistakes. It’s clear in our head, but if it’s not clear in our readers head, so what? We’ve accomplished nothing.

So thanks to all our families, friends and writing groups out there who are kind enough to read our work first and give honest critics that improve our work so that one day we will be published.

This blog was inspired by: Chris Taylor “Characters Do Interesting Things.” He writes how he wrote a story with lots of action, but his friend helped him realize that he needed more characterization.