Monday, May 4, 2009

My Little Experiment

I recently conducted a little experiment (in the least scientific way possible). I wanted to see how much something being in print (like, book form) influenced the way I read a text; namely, how critical I am?

Let’s face it, we don’t read books the same way we read submissions from our critique group. When I pick up a book, I assume it’s good. After all, it’s been published, right? (Don’t even go there…that’s another blog post.) When I pick up a Slushie submission, I assume it needs work. That’s what the critique group is for.

But what if I were to pick up a book and read it with the same critical eye that I read our submissions? Yup, that’s right, they all need work.

The Phantom Tollbooth—a little more descriptive narrative when he goes through the tollbooth, please.

Eragon—Maybe it would be better if the main character didn’t go unconscious every other chapter…just a thought.

Harry Potter—watch those adverbs.

The Secret Garden—I’m just a teensy bit unclear about what’s happening here.

Yes, even The Secret Garden, a book I adore, could be improved (in my humble opinion). I read one chapter as I would read a Slushie submission, and though I found little to comment on, there were a few places where the meaning was unclear or someone appeared out of nowhere.

All this leads me to say that a book is not an equation with a definite answer. Plots can always be tightened, characters fleshed out, and words tinkered with. But you have to stop somewhere.

It also makes me realize that we Slushies are a tough set of gals; we don’t let anything get by. So the next time I’m overwhelmed by the amount of feedback on my chapter or all the suggestions for change, I’ll just remember that we would have done the same to Harry Potter.


Tess said...

So true! The hard part is knowing when to stop, what to take - what to leave. What's the answer to that, I'd like to know :)

Sarah said...

I'm still waiting for that "when to stop" moment, Tess! Every time I think I'm close, I find glaring faults.

I've decided I'll stop when the faults I still see are spotty and not novel-wide. You know, the bad hair day as opposed to a heinous hair cut.

Tess said...