This morning, however, I get up, make my coffee, and sit at the computer, and what do I find? Ah! The critique! I'm a bit surprised I didn't click on Ann's e-mail with trepidation, but I was just plain excited. She did not disappoint me. Well, I was a bit disappointed that she didn't use the phrase "the next Hemingway" with reference to me, but I'll get over that. What she did was deliver the sort of specific critique I have been longing for.
For instance, I really wanted to know my strengths and weaknesses. While this is difficult to judge from one piece, she wrote that I have a "fine imagination" and that I should trust my ability to "'nail' a character first time out." She referenced a specific character and said that the sort of description I applied to her was a strength of mine.
My chief weakness, she thought, was providing too much small detail. She said I should pare things down, and recommended an exercise to help me with that. She said I should try to take what I wrote in four paragraphs and, without cutting the scene itself down, rewrite the material in two paragraphs using only my strongest descriptors. This is just what I needed! I am looking forward to following her advice.
I definitely agree with her that the story drags a bit because of the detail. I was just talking to Mary Ann about that yesterday as we were traveling back from a family reunion in Indiana. She said she has enjoyed reading "Vintage Furniture and Oddities" (parts one and two) much more than The Brown Sisters, and I think she's onto something there. I've been heavy handed, and I think Ann's recommendations may be just what I need.
On top of all that, she recommended a book to help me. It's called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and it sounds like it will be quite helpful. Thanks, Ann!