Monday, July 07, 2008

The Critique Arrives

It's nice when something you've been waiting for finally happens.  Ever since June 17--a long time ago, I know--I have been waiting for Ann McCutchan's final critique of the bit of The Brown Sisters (working title) I read at the Trinity Arts Conference.  For those who don't know, Ann is a professor in the MA in Creative Writing program at the University of North Texas.  She led the workshop in which I read the piece, but there wasn't enough time for a good, thorough critique of the whole chapter.

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!


Anonymous said...

Congrats again. If you can't write like Hemingway, you can always just live his lifestyle....or not.

Rex Queems (the phony)

Movieram said...

Sounds like you're writing is more in the style of Faulkner than Hemingway! At any rate, I enjoy the editing process. Most of what you excise will be garbage, but sometimes it is excellent stuff that just doesn't fit that particular project. Save those snippets to be reworked into other pieces in the future.


Movieram said...

And I'm mortified that I used "you're" incorrectly in the previous post. I do know better. So much for giving editing advice...

kellie honey said...

that's great news. i'm glad she was so helpful. most of all, i'm glad you're going after what you love.