Critiques

I’m getting good at this. Twice a month, 4 other writers and I get together and “critique” my stories. Of course, we do this for each other’s works so it is balanced. There have been times, however, that I’ve felt pretty beat-up when I left. The bottom line is: no matter how I feel, I HAVE to consider what my colleagues (cool word, huh? Thanks, Ann Watters!) have said. The thing is, I use about 85-90 percent of the suggestions. These changes have improved my work immeasurably.

A few weeks ago, I sent off my manuscript to a critique service provided by Public Safety Writer’s Association (PSWA). In her written appraisal, Marilyn Olsen, the PSWA President said she enjoyed reading my story. She said, “It was a pleasure reading it. As you will see, I think the book has many strong points and, with just a few changes, would certainly be ready to be published.” Her overall impression reads: “My overall impression of your book is very positive. After I received it, my initial plan was just to scan a few pages and put it aside until I had the time to read it. However, even though there were other manuscripts I had received earlier sitting on my desk, I kept reading your book. It is well crafted and certainly keeps the reader anxious to see what happens next.”

Olsen goes on to praise my prologue. She states that the characters are interesting and remain consistent, although she had a problem with the amount of spare time my villain has (he is a Superior Court Judge and everyone knows they’re overworked!). Good point-I have two wonderful resources to explore a means to explain that. I think I have a workable plan.

First, not necessarily in this order, Olsen said of the grammar and punctuation, that the copy was “remarkably free of errors” but there were a few and they need to be cleaned up.

The second of three criticisms is the title, PROBABLE CAUSE. She did some research and found several books with the same title. Most notably, a novel by Ridley Pearson published in 2000. At the outset of this novel, I knew about Pearson’s book. I considered my title to be a “working title”. I expect to change it at some point.

The third and most important of the points that Olsen raised was that I used too much internal dialog. She said it became very distracting and detracted from the continuity of the story. As I leafed through the pages, it dawned on me that these italicized sentences weren’t necessarily internal dialog as much as sentiments I thought were important. Most of them were just as important as I believed but they worked just fine as narrative. She was right and I made all the changes. The story is better for her critique.

Now, to get the grammar and punctuation cleaned up, then I will submit it to the PSWA fiction contest.

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