Saturday, August 15, 2009

Talk Thursday: My Process

Since JulieAnn put up her topic I’ve frankly, been stumped. Then I realized, “Cele you dummy you’ve a process and it is one writers like, and it’s your own process.”

Several years ago I read a book for a writer, probably Natalie, who asked me to give her my thoughts. And I wrote my first critique. Not having been educated to edit a manuscript, I developed my own technique and learned a lot a long the way, each book teaches me something new. When I first began it easily took me three complete read throughs, now I usually only need two.

First I make a copy of the manuscript then I make a chapter timeline. As I read notes fill each chapter, telling me the whos, the whens, the whats, and the wheres. I add thoughts and humorous notes upon the way. And tell when each character is introduced, their relationship to others characters, and their peculiarities.

I’ve always considered the first read through as being for me. But in truth I’ve already begun my work.

Somewhere, usually around chapter three, I begin a chapter critique. This is where I will mark the errors and observances by chapter and page for the author to see. At the same time I’m making my critiques I am marking them in the manuscript so the writer can see the whole detail. My chapter timeline allows me to reference points of interest, characteristics or actions that are in opposition or support of the story’s facts. This is why I refer to my critiques as, “Continuity Critiques.” I will keep a running day count and tell you why that woman can’t go to lunch on that day.

Finally I wrap up my critique with my personal observations. Why I loved the book, why I hated a specific characters, my personal likes and dislikes. Twice now, I’ve run into books that bogged down for me. This was a personal crisis. How do I tell a writer her baby isn’t working for me?

A dear friend, yes I work for my friends, sent me a book and I struggled to get through the first half of the book. I walked away, went back, walked away, I balked (and no this isn’t you, it was another writer.) When finally asked, I had to own up that the story wasn’t working for me. I hated the main character. And the slang, OHMIGAWD! She asked why? And I told her. Wow, it was that easy. We worked together, she found other input (that backed up my thoughts) and the story and book continued on. The process worked. The funny part is in both books, when I got half way past they worked.

Not knowing what to send to the writer, I sent every page I’d created. My chapter timeline apparently is a keeper, because I get an amazing amount of feed back on the value of my chapter timelines. Yes, they want and need the critiques, but really really look forward to the chapter timelines. Who knew?

So there you have it - my process. Apparently it works. It's different than the work other critiquers do, but it has allowed me to find a nitch in the writing world where one before had not existed (beyond poetry) for me.

To the writers who trust me with their babies, thank you. Thank you for your belief in me and allowing me into your process and your world. To date I’ve worked on nine published books, countless to be published books, one thesis, and a collection of short stories, two databases, and three websites. It has been a blessing.