A few weeks ago, I submitted the first scene of my novel to my critique group. This is a scene that I’ve rewritten many times since I wrote my first draft in 2008. When we met to discuss our submissions, my colleagues (that’s what I’ll call my fellow critique group members, though I could just as accurately call them friends or even “fellow travelers along this difficult road we call writing”) gave me a number of suggestions and I went home and rewrote the scene and submitted it again.
We met this week and my colleagues had more to say about my scene. Before I tell you what they said, let me tell you a little bit about the scene.
My protagonist is a young doctor, a senior resident, responsible for a number of interns (first-year residents). The scene begins when she strides into the hospital and a nurse comes up to her to complain about an intern harassing another nurse. The protagonist listens to the story as they ride up on the elevator, tells the nurse she’ll take care of it, and goes off to investigate.
While I’d like to say it’s more dramatic than it sounds, it really isn’t. Can you say “passive?” And I never saw it. I keep seeing the protagonist striding confidently across the lobby, but really, the whole scene is her listening to someone talk.
Both of my colleagues had the same thought: rewrite the scene so the protagonist walks in on the intern harassing the nurse—instant conflict, instant tension.
Wow, why didn’t I think of that?
The reason, I believe, that I didn’t think of that is because I’m too familiar with the story. It’s really difficult for me to change things after rewriting the novel so many times. It seems set in stone—which doesn’t bode well for a creative rewrite.
But now that my colleagues have offered their insights on how to make this scene better, I hope that I can approach the next scene in the same way. Maybe if I write out a summary as I did above (when it became totally obvious that the scene was a snore) I’ll be able to see what does and doesn’t work.
If not, I’m sure my colleagues will tell me.
Rather than feeling discouraged, I’m excited to get back to work on my novel. I’m so glad I got this feedback on my first scene because I feel it’s given me new eyes.
I’ve also noticed that my attachment to the words I’ve already written seems to have “loosened” a little. While I’m not going to throw out my previous drafts, I’m ready to make some major changes and take some creative risks in my quest to master the craft of writing—and write a novel I’d really love to read, not one that will put me to sleep!
Do you show your work to anyone else? Do you find this helpful?
Happy 4th of July everyone! Don’t forget the sunscreen!