I paid a modest fee to have the first 25,000 words of Through the Mist: Restoration (TTMR) reviewed by Mrs. Lani Diane Rich at storywonk.com. I thought that the book was done, so this was akin to putting on a few finishing touches. Oh, I was so, so wrong.
The genre of TTMR meant that Mrs. Rich was the victim at storywonk.com. She gave a great critique of my work. A devastating, but great, critique.
Up until this point, “criticism” usually meant something negative. Let’s face it. At work, folks are all too happy to tear you down. When I received her critique, I learned that there is a different form – constructive criticism. What a revelation!
Mrs. Rich offered the objective opinion I needed from a professional writer. I learned so many valuable lessons that sent TTMR and me on a completely different path.
For starters, I have a problem with point of view (POV). I still don’t understand how writers can construct a story in an omniscient viewpoint. Maybe I will learn how as I write more books. For now, it is better for me to remain firmly in one character’s viewpoint.
I realized that I did a poor job “painting a scene,” as I call it. I should not assume that the reader knows as much about Scottish history as I think I do. While I do not need to spend pages on a topic, I can toss in a sentence here and there, change the actions of a character – those sorts of things – and thus provide the reader with necessary information. The reader does not need to be bored with research material and history lessons. As a writer, it is my responsibility to push the story along, and sometimes that involves sharing the facts tumbling in my head.
I also adjusted the timeline. I don’t want to give away too much of the story. Let’s just say that certain events happened sooner rather than later. I should have allowed Tilly more time than I did. In my defense, I have known people who endured similar hardships. These women are amazing. They pick themselves and do extraordinary things. Still, one does need a little time to catch one’s breath. I may have pushed Tilly too much.
The biggest change came with the prologue. (I might publish the original here someday, just for giggles.) Mrs. Rich believed prologues were a bad idea and strongly recommended that I eliminate it altogether. If I insisted upon keeping it, she suggested that I try writing the prologue from a different POV.
That was the best advice. For kicks, I wrote it from Morag’s POV. I decided that, if I did not like it, I would not use it. The new version vastly improved the story. It completely changed the entire tone of the book.
I kept the prologue – sorry, Mrs. Rich. In my humble opinion, it is necessary for the book. I have no intentions of writing a prologue for the next one, though. It has no purpose there.
Remember - it is your book, so tell the story how you like. At the same time, I strongly advise you to seek an objective reader for your work. I spent so much time working on the story that I could no longer spot the weaknesses. I want people to read TTMR, something they will not do if the work is deeply flawed. I did not want readers to toss the book aside because they could not follow the story or were disgusted by the quality of the writing. You probably feel the same way too.
I desperately needed the constructive criticism that Mrs. Rich provided. Even if it stung a little. No pain, no gain, right? I hope you have had an opportunity to read TTMR and agree.