You can read Part 1 of this essay HERE. Or you can continue reading Part 2.
When I first join my critique group, I wanted to know what critics thought of
my story, very much. But they couldn’t get into it because they couldn’t get
past my writing (there were many things wrong with it, and I didn’t know). I thought what my story needed was some tweaking
when what it really needed was an overhaul.
Any serious writer who wants his
writing to get to the point where he can truly benefit from critique groups
must send in rewrites and must apply all he knows about
fiction writing in those rewrites.
What I am about to give
you, I hope, will help with that, and help my job as a critter as well. A child
should always do his homework himself so he or she can follow the lessons in
class the next day. So make rewriting your work your
personal business if you truly want to gain from critique groups.
Make learning some writing basics, like showing and telling, and applying them,
something you ought to do so you can be assisted. I don’t mind teaching
newbies, but I have to be careful with the older ones in the group, as doing so
might feel insulting. If you want people to appreciate your story, you need to ensure
that they get past your writing and get into your story. Plain and simple.
it’s sad when you have such a great concept for a story and fail, but your writing
can’t rise to the occasion. Every piece of art has two aspects: concept and
delivery. Ensure that your delivery, even if itdoes not impress, does not
distract, and most critics will give you critiques on what to do to improve your
story and delivery. If it distracts, then all focus goes into teaching the
basics on how to deliver. And that’s not moving forwards.
I want those who write short stories to know that we have a great advantage. We
can really get it right because it is much easier to rewrite
your short story fifty-times than to do the same with your novel. Also, it is
much easier to get a short story published as an unknown writer than to get a novel
published. Short stories can be sent to publishers unsolicited while novels
can’t. Novels have to go through literary agents and some of them don’t accept
unsolicited queries. Short stories can appear online without needing paperback
or hard cover versions, as novels do. Novels are bigger marketing risks. When
they fail, publishers lose a lot, not like short stories.
Let me use myself as an example. This writing journey has been a learning
process for me that got a jolt when I joined my critique group at IWW. I was in
both the Novels List and Fiction List. I learned many things I didn’t know when
I joined, and did a lot of research to no more or clarify things. (Whenever I
love doing something, I am passionate about it and can go extra miles for it.) I
also had to rewrite nearly 250,000 words of two novels I
started before joining the group. But I was too much in a hurry to apply what I’d
learned and now I need to rewrite those novels again to incorporate
the more things I learned. It’s tiring. And I wouldn’t like anyone to go
Right now, I’m taking a long pause from completing my novels, and
focusing on the shorter fiction as a way of learning. My short stories will be
the children I grow up with, and when I’m fully-grown, I will finish up my
Also, I know I stand
a better chance of a publisher taking a chance on me with a novel project after
building a profile as a short-story writer, which means getting short stories
published and that’s not so hard. I’m not asking anyone to start writing short stories as I’m doing but to make sure
writing is at a certain level before embarking on a cumbersome novel
Save yourself time and a painful headache.
What I’ve sent in will help
you too. There are many very good self-published novels out
there but there are also many very bad ones. Why not make yours one of
ones with several masterful rewrites, if you choose to self-publish?
Opara writes fiction and non-fiction. His short story, The Dream, was
recently nominated for the Fiction Desk Newcomer's Awards.
Labels: Advice Column, Charles Opara, Rewrites, Tips For Making Your Writing Shine, Writing advice