To tweak or not to tweak

I spent the morning and part of the afternoon with my critique group. They got the very first glimpse of my new novel. I managed to get Chapter One finished yesterday, just in time for our scheduled meeting. If you’re familiar with Anne Lamont’s Bird By Bird, you’re familiar with the term “shitty first draft.” This definitely describes Chapter One. And that’s okay. Words on the page are easier to fix than to create in the first place.

I actually belong to two critique groups. The one I met with today consists of two other writers. The second group is a larger one and online. Both groups have proved invaluable to me and my work. Today’s meeting provided insights into what’s lacking in my opening. The question now is how much do I fix at this point?

As writers, one of the pitfalls we face is spending too much time fixing the first chapter. Or the first three chapters. Or the first five. The problem with all this fixing is that the rest of the book never gets written.

So I may tweak it a bit and then offer Chapter One to my online critique group. Once I hear from them, I’ll have plenty of notes about what needs attention when I come back to do my rewrite.

My point here is twofold. First, if you’re writing, find a critique group. Those extra eyes are your first indication of what’s working and what isn’t. Second, finish the book.

And if you still can’t resist fixing and fixing and fixing some more, think of this: once you DO get to Chapter Nine or Sixteen or whatever, you may discover something has happened that changes what you wrote and rewrote back in Chapter One and all that work has to be completely revised anyway.

Get the critique, save the notes, but finish the book.


JLB said…
Greetings Annette! Thanks for the welcome this afternoon!

You are so right about finding a critique group. I’ve been writing predominately in my own personal little vacuum for a long time. Finding a local group through Pennwriters has been immensely helpful for me. I've benefited not only from feedback on my work, but also from connecting with others who are also immersed in the writing process.

I haven’t read Bird By Bird in about 10 years; I just pulled it out of the abyss a couple weeks ago and put it on my most accessible shelf... I think it’s time to sit down with it again for a little refresher!

Kristine said…
Great post, Annette!

Every writer should have a copy of BIRD BY BIRD in a permanent place on the bookshelf.


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