Readers and Critiques

Parts of Across the Silk Road, aka Book 1 remastered, have been sent out to readers. No one has the entire manuscript, not even Little Sis, because I’m still hashing out the last chapters which are still in draft form. I have to thank my readers for being so patient with me and my jigsaw process. Right after I finish this draft, I’ll pick up from the beginning and revise in earnest again.

Last night, after critique group, I was thinking of how deep my revision process is. I expect a lot of the tone of the book to change and deepen in the subsequent drafts. Rarely does the structure or plot change, but the emotions get worked over and sharpened (at least I hope) which requires more invasive and far reaching changes threaded throughout the book. It’s so time consuming and nerve wracking to work this way, but I may just have to resign myself to it.

I wonder if this is in some way due to the style of critique I prefer, which I developed from working with Little Sis. I was telling her last time we were together how most readers will read and tell you what worked and what didn’t, giving you suggestions for what you can tweak. That’s definitely needed and very useful. But what my sister tells me is not whether the story is working, but rather, she tells me what the story can be.

The suggestions Little Sis will give are ones that will turn a scene on its tail. She’ll redirect the emotional path of the scene, at times, changing the tone of the entire chapter and perhaps even subsequent chapters. The characters will develop in an entirely different way from what I have on the page — but not in conflict with my overall arch. I can see where this sort of critique can be unwelcome. The changes are not insignificant, but her special skill is that she is sensitive to where the story is going. She’s able to tell me how to do what I want, but even better.

I think it takes a special kind of love to be able to do that. A special kind of tough love.


  1. Jax Cassidy
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 08:24:40

    Your Lil Sis sounds awesome! My sisters are very supportive but my older sibling is the only one that’s read a few of my stories. I guess because I write erotic romances, my younger sister refuses to read my stuff. Not that she’s a prude, she’s very critical and would most likely pick out everything that’s wrong with my writing. LOL

  2. Dara
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 08:47:59

    Wow. That does take a really special kind of tough love! But that’s what is needed sometimes.

    Don’t you love having a little sis who shares your passion for writing? I know I do. I think I’ve learned more from my little sis about writing than I have from anyone else, at least when it comes to the discipline aspect. She helps keep me accountable 🙂

  3. Victoria Dixon
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 23:12:00

    Wow. Wish I had someone capable of doing that. You are fortunate!

  4. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 08:42:24

    Jax – My little sis writes YA and fantasy/sci-fi primarily. It’s great to have a reader who doesn’t write romance because she’s looking at craft and not genre norms. On the other hand, every time I think of Sis reading a love scene, I can’t help but blush!

    Dara – I used to joke and tell her we could be literary sisters like the Brontes. But writing genre fiction instead.

    Victoria – I think there should be a for writers. Find your ideal reader.

    Little Sis told me that she actually took a class on critique. Her professor would have them critique each other’s work, but then he would provide oversight by reading the critiques and commenting on the way students were giving feedback. Imagine that! Critique on your critiques. And I get to reap the benefits of her education.

    I guess I forgive her for stealing all my Halloween candy when we were kids. Reluctantly forgive.