So, I have been working religiously with critique partners on polishing one of my novels and I keep asking myself – what’s next? Figuring out what is not working is just as hard as making it work. Sometimes I think it’s harder.
My current series takes place in Georgian England around the 1740s. I fell in love with this time period as I began to research it. There are so many possibilities for my stories and so many different characters from history that are pivotal. This is both exciting and frustrating at the same time. If you are a lover of history, you know what I mean. You strive for historical accuracy but at the same time you are writing a piece of fiction so you want to bend some of the information for your own benefit. For example, I have Bonnie Prince Charlie causing havoc in one of my stories. He is a pivotal person in history during this time because he does cause trouble on English soil. I would be remiss to ignore his importance and yet I cannot let him take over my story. My story must always remain the hero and heroine’s story.
So, now I will return to what’s next. Are the historical aspects accurate? Once I check over them and look over all the minute details, I have to be sure they do not take over my story. Then I have to make sure there is the perfect blend of romance and suspense (because this one has political intrigue mixed in).
Since my stories are romance novels, the love story between the hero and heroine must be foremost, but the intrigue is important to the development of both characters. Here is where having the right critique partners makes all the difference. My partners can tell me if I have the right blend. Is there enough intrigue? Am I answering the right questions? Do the hero and heroine make appropriate reactions to the intrigue? Will the intrigue pull them apart or bring them together? Finally, how will my main characters respond to the black moment? Will they be able to overcome it?
Now you can see how when I ask “What’s next?” I really have to examine each piece of my book.
I am the type of writer who just writes – writes and writes. Then I have to go back and read it over. Editing and editing to make sure I have added sufficient emotion and details. Once I do that, I have to go back once more and check to see if it all flows together. After that, I need to check for historical points. Does everything move along and sound realistic and yet maintain the main characters? This is not an easy task. Having good critique partners can help enormously.
I think in the past I have undervalued the importance of critique partners. I have had people read my books, but I have never had them work on them as much as I am asking them to do so now. I am not sure why exactly. Perhaps it’s because I have learned the value of great critique partners. You cannot have someone critique for you who will not be honest. You also cannot have someone critique for you who will tell you how wonderful you are. While this is a nice boost for your ego, it really doesn’t help you if you are not moving towards publication. The best critique partners are honest, are willing to devote sufficient time to your manuscript AND are willing to trust you as well with theirs.
Why is this important? Because it cannot be one-sided. If I gave my manuscript to someone and did not reciprocate, how fair would that be? I realize that sometimes the person who is critiquing may not need your help (they may have their own partner) but you can still offer your services to either that person or someone else.
Perhaps you are thinking – well, if I’m not published, why would anyone want me for a critique partner? You have a set of skills someone needs. You may not realize it, but you do. Once you realize what you have to offer, then you can offer away! Give back what you take out of it.
So, now I ask you – what’s next?