That’s what I felt before the critique session for The Last Black Swan, the second part of my YA fantasy trilogy.
I knew I had a good story, but I’d handed it out to members of my writers’ group and asked them to tell me what was working, what wasn’t, and what they thought I might do about it. Would they agree on what was good, or bad, or needed changing? Or would I find that in a room of six writers, there were seven different opinions on what to do? And if they didn’t agree, would I melt down right there, or wait until I got home?
At least, before the critique, there was food – a potluck lunch with quiche and salmon loaf, hedgehog meatballs (looking like, not made with!), salad and apple crisp. And wine and coffee. Writers in To the Point do not starve. Critique is hard enough to take without having to do it on an empty stomach!
I have to say that most of the writers I know aren’t reticent about offering an opinion – especially when they’ve been asked for it! – and this lot were no exception. I’d reread the novel myself to prepare for this, and some of the observations and suggestions echoed what I thought myself. The last time I worked on this novel was in 2014, and three years gave me some perspective on the story and the style.
Other opinions hadn’t crossed my mind, but there were some very solid suggestions that I’ll be taking that I believe will make the story better, and also improve some of the characters. I suppose my truly most awful fear was that my group would sit around the table and intone in unison, “This sucks, start over!” Okay, not really, but what I wondered was if I had another major rewrite to do. And I don’t. It will be substantial in effect, but moderate in terms of work. As soon as I get done trimming The Swan Harp, this is next.
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it hereafter. Writer, get yourself a group of people you can trust, who will read your writing seriously and give you their honest opinion. Oh, yes, and love you even if they have to tell you the child of your pen is not the perfect wonder you’d thought.