Thursday, January 26, 2012

Giving a Project Multiple Reads

I really have great admiration for critique partners and writers' groups. I honestly don't know how you do it. While I don't mind reading a client's work multiple times, I find that the more I read something the less perspective I have.

In other words, the first time I read a book I'm really able to come up with some great concrete tips and advice, some real revisions. The second time I read the same book I'm pickier. I'm looking for things I missed and of course to see if the changes the author made actually work, and after that I start to really lose perspective. I start to look for things that aren't there and I even question my own editorial advice. Are the things I'm pointing out really necessary changes, will an editor really not buy a book because of this, or am I just being hypersensitive at this point?

This is why, for me anyway, I always advise authors to submit to your agent and editor only when you feel you absolutely need to. I don't mind reading a book when you're only done with half if you need my perspective at that point, but I'd prefer you not use me as a critique partner, sending each chapter as you finish it or sending those first three chapters 15 different times just to see if you're getting closer. I want to be your freshest set of eyes, and yes, that might mean a whole heck of a lot of work for you, but hopefully when I give you those tips they'll be solid and full of great advice rather than wishy-washy.

And, before any of my clients panic thinking they shouldn't have sent those initial three chapters or partial or first 50% because you knew you were struggling or questioned the work and needed my advice, you're all fine. ;)



Stephanie said...

I've got the same problem (both with my own work and with students' work). I find I do best with two reads. After that, I end up changing things just to change something. Sometimes, I even go back to the way it was in the beginning. That's when I tell myself to put the manuscript down and just back away!

Noelle Pierce said...

I struggle with this, too, both as a beta/CP and with my own work. At least with my own, I can put it aside for a month and come back with a little more perspective. Just when I think something is ready, I get fresh eyes on it and find it needs more work than I thought. If, however, I start to change things back, or get stuck nitpicking a sentence to death, I force myself to close it and start working on the pitch and synopsis. If I also have the pitch/synopsis of my CP's work, it helps me see the big picture more than rereading the story does.

Brianna Soloski said...

I've only read my own novel twice, because I know I'm biased and will miss things that other people will see. However, for me, it's also the same with already published books - I can't re-read books. There are only a handful of books I've read more than once, simply because they lose their charm and power after the first reading.

Elissa M said...

I belong to an online writing workshop whose members have really helped me maintain a fresh perspective. I've also found that critiquing other people's work helps me see the flaws in my own. I have to say I have never changed anything back to the way it was originally. I guess I've been lucky that all my changes have been improvements!

ryan field said...

I've never been able to send anything out until it was what I considered finished and ready. It's just the way I'm wired.

Laura K. Curtis said...

Just how did you know I was assuming you were directing this post at me? (Oh no! A mind-reading agent! How much more powerful could they be??)

Susan S said...

There's a secondary benefit to not using the agent as crit partner also - more eyes on a work means a higher chance of catching many different kinds of issues.

I have an alpha reader, two peer editors, an awesome critique group and a fantastic agent. All fulfill different roles.

Just to share the process: Nobody gets anything until Draft 4 at least (sometimes as late as Draft 6). Alpha gets chapters first - and only chapters, in sequence. That way macro comments can get integrated in one pass. Peer editors receive the entire work when it passes the Alpha's hammer (and yes, he wields a massive one). When Peer editors approve, the work goes to crit group (note: neither the alpha nor the peer editors are in this group). Only when the work passes all of them does my agent get "eyes on the prize." (She does, however, get summaries and general progress updates as I go.)

An elaborate process, but it really helps the finished work achieve a nice polish before the agent reads.

Claude Nougat said...

I'm deeply impressed by an agent who's ready to read an ms several times...Amazing! And here I thought it was already super hard to get a query past an agent (I'm convinced most of them don't even read my queries)! Ah, some authors are really lucky to have an agent like you!

I'm also astounded that there are authors who dare send their agents their book chapter by chapter! I've always felt that it was elementary courtesy to send one's ms only once it had been polished to the best of one's abilities(i.e. gone through peer group reviews, friends and non friends, and read and re-read not once but several times...)

Gues I must be really naive or a very unlucky writer back in those years when I searched for an agent!

Kate Douglas said...

I prefer that nobody reads my work until I'm finished. That's when it goes to my beta readers. I've tried sending a few chapters at a time, but my stories evolve throughout the process and a reader's comments before I finish a story can have a disastrous effect on my concept.

I rarely send anything to Jessica unless it's a proposal for a new series, the first three chapters of a proposal, or something I'm considering developing. I like that, though, the fact she allows me to work directly with my editor unless I really feel I need her perspective. Which, for what it's worth, is almost always right on.

Jenny Bent said...

I'm with you, 100%