I don’t think I’ll ever write a 100,000 word manuscript.
First of all, my attention span isn’t that long. Also, I have been known to search for just the “right word” for 45 minutes. You don’t pound out 100K words doing that. But the biggest reason is…
I’m just not that into detail.
I can’t spend three pages setting a scene. Which makes me a perfect kidlit writer, of course. Only adult market writers can get away with crap like that. The one thing that would bore me more than reading such a thing is writing it.
And I don’t want to describe what my characters look like down to the last wart on Aunt Junie May’s left pinkie toe. Sorry. Most of the time, I won’t even tell you what color their hair is. Or their eyes. Not unless it’s important to the characterization or the story.
And the house might be “needing paint” or it might come “from family money”, but I’m not going to furnish the blueprints and color swatches.
Because if you’re reading my story, I’m going to make you work.
When you pick up my book, you and I enter into an agreement. I will do my best to entertain you, and you will do your darnedest to be entertained. I ply my craft, you apply your imagination.
You, the reader, get to create too.
And that, my fellow writers, is the reason that there will always be books.
It is tremendously easier–and faster–to evolve as a writer with a critique group behind you. (Or around your neck. Depending on your planetary federation.) I improved my craft so much between the first chapter of my novel and the last that–well, I felt I had to issue an apology on our listserv for what I’d put my little buddies through.
The Valuable Aspect of Critique Groups #1 that I’ll blog my fingers stubby over today is…
THE READING OF THE MANUSCRIPT
You can read your own words out loud to the mice in your garret all you want, but YOU know what they’re supposed to mean, and you can put in the inflections so they twist the right way. If you want to see how the reader is going to understand your words, you’ve got to have a stranger (gasp!) put her profane tongue all over them. (Ooooh, yeah. I AM a YA writer.)
For this exercise, a cold reading is best. Where the practiced reader stumbles is usually an awkward piece of writing: too many prepositions, jumbled syntax, misused words, poor punctuation, etc. Perhaps characters’ names are cumbersome or too similar.
When you are one step removed, you may hear words repeated within mere sentences of each other. Or even that the “blooming flowers bloomed under Judy Blume’s window”.
Dialogue that sounded snappy on paper may sound insipid hanging in the air:
“I say, Boopsie, could you fetch me that ping-pong ball?”
“What-what? This one? Under the yum-yum tree?”
You’ve learned at least a day’s worth of revisions, just by listening to someone read your MS out loud.
God help you when the REAL critique begins.