Tuesday, January 09, 2018


'I have read the first 30 pages of your novel. I do still think there are some problems with the shifting viewpoints - and with telling instead of showing  (sorry, sorry, sorry! I know you won’t be happy). There are places where the novel comes alive, but also for me places where it still doesn’t. Shall we talk about this on Tuesday?'

Chrissie has been reading my rewrite, and this excerpt is from her Sunday email. Am I disheartened? Strangely not. This is a tough novel to write: it has a quiet subject, and has several viewpoints. I want it to work. I want it to be the best it can be. It doesn't matter to me how many rewrites it takes as long as it works in the end. I recently read that Roddy Doyle made 17 attempts at one of his recent successful novels. 

I don't think, however, that I can be asking Chrissie to read as many rewrites as it might take, so I'll need a solution to that. It's hard finding someone whose opinion you trust, someone who understands writing and can be specific about problems and who is sympathetic to the difficulties.

This week on Twitter, the writer Joanne Harris tweeted a series of excellent points about editors which are relevant. Here are some of them in the order they appeared on Twitter:

So today Chrissie and I are having lunch and she will tell me more. And we will also discuss her upcoming book launch.

Later, another writing friend is coming to visit. I have just read her first novel - at her request - and she is coming to hear what I think. I hope it's helpful.


marmee said...

what I would like to know sue, is how you know that the specific critique you are receiving is valid? Are you going by your personal knowledge of the person making it? Or what they have written? It interests me because in this last year I was thinking about how wildly tastes differ. A well known blogger ( Not Christine Poulson)had published a 3rd novel and right across the blogosphere it received really good reviews. I had read number one and two, I think, but could not share the enthusiasm. So if I had had the critiquing of her first draft I would have had much to say about characters not being alive, not taking actual shape in front of one's eyes because for me it is character that is most important regardless of genre. I want to know the people and believe in them and care about them or hate them but always understand or want to understand what they are going through.

Sue Hepworth said...

That's a very interesting question.
Sometimes when a critiquer makes a criticism, I immediately know that what they are saying is right because there is something in the back of my head which recognises their point and I see that my misgiving was there all along but I wasn't listening to it. That bit is straightforward.
Sometimes when someone criticises something, I think - No! They are wrong! They just don't 'get' it! But after a couple of days of annoyance, I realise that there is some truth in what they are saying and I need to consider it more - see if changes are necessary, and if they are, make them.
Sometimes, someone will say something that I don't agree with, even after a week, and in that case I need to either stand by what I have written or get another trusted reader's opinion. It may in the end come down to sticking to my guns (an unfortunate expression for a pacifist...) no matter what anyone says.
The trouble is in finding trusted readers.
does this clear it up?

marmee said...

Yes it does because it means you are still and always trusting your own vision