The next meeting with the Sci-Fi / fantasy group was pretty uneventful. However, since my last post, I had my first meeting with an online group using Skype. The format of this group is to have everyone email each other a selection of our writing several days ahead of the meeting, so we have time to review the work. I sent along the first two chapters of my WIP.
Holy crap were they thorough! I got to experience some of the most detailed examinations of my work since this project started. I’ve posted a few small scenes on a writing forum site for the purpose of getting feedback. Some of that advice has been excellent, other advice… not so much. Part of the problem with getting help from an open forum like that is not knowing much about the person doing the critiquing. I’ve gotten advice from people that is blatantly wrong or from someone who obviously didn’t bother reading the section close enough to understand the material. I can accept someone casually reading a book for enjoyment who misses certain points, but the same shouldn’t be so for someone doing a critique.
While I don’t know the individuals in this writing group well enough yet on a personal level, I have read sections of their work. They are all writing coherently, and so far, they all have stories that are interesting. I think that’s pretty important for me to be able to trust their opinions. I also hope that I’m capable of giving decent feedback for their work. I’ve said before, my background is in the world of medicine. My ability to construct sentences is severely lacking from a grammar perspective.
So what did they tell me? Since they were reading the material, they were able to pick up on several formatting issues that I hadn’t been aware of. Paragraph issues with dialogues, the need to use italics when referring to the name of a ship, using italics when switching to first person internal thoughts, and a couple of other details. I wouldn’t have known these problems existed without having someone read the material instead of me reading it out loud for others to hear.
I’ve seen a few online discussions about stories that switch from third-person to first in the manner I’ve been doing. When I began writing the story, I did everything in third-person. Then someone suggested that switching a few comments here and there to first-person internal thoughts would be more powerful. It gets tiresome to see “He thought” or “She felt.” So now, I have a few limited internal thoughts scattered around using first-person and separated with italics. I’ve heard arguments for both methods and for now I like it the way it is.
I’ve had lots of people give me suggestions about dialogue tags. First, I was under-using them, then I went too far the other way and overused them. In some cases, I combined a descriptive beat with an unnecessary tag since the beat was enough to define the speaker. I’ve also had people tell me that they like – “blah blah blah,” he said. Or in some cases – “blah blah blah,” said he. Most of my tags are – He said, “Blah blah blah.” I’m not sure there’s a huge difference, but it seems like it’s a subject where everyone has an opinion. Personally, I like to know who is speaking before I read the dialogue so I can use their voice in my head. I’ve changed some of my tags to the other format for the sake of variety.
Moving along to other items that this group picked out. There was a scene in space where the characters are in a low gravity environment. The group felt that I needed to define this situation early in the chapter. Suggestion accepted and fixed. I was told my naming the cryostasis chambers “Tardigrade pods” made it sound like a reference to the Tardis from Dr. Who. This problem never crossed my mind. Since a previous critiquer had an issue with the name, I added a brief paragraph which lets the reader know the origin. There were also a few items they thought were unclear. Hopefully, those problems are also fixed.
The last thing I’ll mention this week is someone in the group paid me the greatest compliment anyone has so far. They found my characters interesting and said my writing sounded like a mixture of Orwell’s Animal Farm and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. There’s a blurb I want to put on the back of the final product!
Thanks for reading. Until next time.Follow @Andrew_Heister