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  1. #1
    Max Graham

    Workshoping a work in progress

    Hey writers.

    I've been working on a novel and need some advice on workshopping. I'm interested in getting feedback from writers groups, but I was wondering if this step was best taken when the book was complete. I wrote my first novel in a bubble, and I didn't take much feedback into consideration. The end result is a flawed story that I think has promise, but suffered from a lack of creative feedback.

    I'm roughly 1/3 complete with the novel I'm writing now, and want to get feedback on a few chapters. Is it good to get criticism early, or to wait until the book is complete?

  2. #2
    Janice W-D

    Re: Workshoping a work in progress


    There's no right or wrong answer to your question because the situation involves too many variables. The skill level of the other members of the critique group, your current skill level and how much time has elapsed between today and when you wrote the first chapter are a few of the variables.

    I lead two face-to-face crit groups, one for pro writers for 12 years and the other one for beginner and intermediate level writers for 6 years. I'd suggest doing your best to clean up beginner mistakes on the first two or three chapters before asking for input from other writers. An abundance of minor errors distracts readers from the story itself, sometimes making them miss things you need the most feedback on.

    1. Use the Find in This Page feature to look for weak, linking verbs (is/was and other forms of "to be"). Highlight and change them to bold text. If you have a bunch on every page, revise to replace most of them with vivid and vibrant verbs that allow the reader to "see" the characters' actions. Goggling "Show, Don't Tell" and "linking verbs" will expedite the process. "Passive voice" is another problem.

    2. Print the chapters out, and then read them aloud. That may help you catch a variety of missteps like spelling, grammar issues, typos, stilted dialogue, speechifying and info dumps.

    3. Now the critiquers have a good chance of focusing mainly on the big picture stuff like characterization, story arc, plot pacing, narrator's voice, etc. After the first chapter's critiqued, pay special attention to any areas that two or more people agreed needing fixing. Work on revising those things in chapters two and three (most writers repeat the same mistakes throughout their novels) before getting them critiqued.

    4. a) If, after applying this method to the first three chapters, you feel overwhelmed or you're losing the zest for writing the last two-thirds of the novel, stop attending the critique group. Write the rest of your novel before getting feedback again.

    b) However, if the feedback excites and rejuvenates you, as if you stumbled upon a map, fresh water and a bed draped with mosquito netting in the midst of a jungle, then repeat steps 1, 2 & 3 while continuing to write the rest of the novel. Some people alternate, writing a new chapter on Monday, revising on Tuesday, writing another new chapter on Wednesday, and so forth. Others split their daily writing time into two shifts, revising in the morning, writing new stuff in the afternoons.

    Good luck on your journey to experiencing what works best for you.


  3. #3
    sam albion

    Re: Workshoping a work in progress

    brilliant advice from Janice there- i wish someone would have said that to me six months ago... ha!!

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