I am within the 7th week of this 14 and a half week course, and things are getting harder. I usually write at least 1,000 words every weekday and have the weekend off, except for Saturday morning when I spend about 4 hours Saturday morning critiquing 3 to 4 people’s submissions that they had updated on Fridays.
We have to submit every Friday somewhere in the region of 2,500 to 7,500 words each week. By the 19th June which is the final submission day, we should have 65,000 words. Moreover, a finished first draft of our novels.
I did start my novel by pantsing it, and after about 15,000 words I did not know where the story was going. So I stopped and thought that I should outline the story of my novel. I also looked at the different genres of crime fiction and opted for the hardboiled detective.
The Write Practice has given me room for thought on where my novel is set and where I get my ideas. It is true that if you help other writers by critiquing their submissions, then you receive help back from them. The outline is relatively basic, so when I come to write that section, it is still open to a significant amount of change that comes to my mind when I go through the scene.
The first-person point of view is actually told like a diary entry, a personal narrative, or a running annotation of the first person’s thoughts. The reader does not see this character from the outside but only through the character’s eyes which have access to thoughts and feelings.
There’s a danger to watch out for, though: filter words.
Filter words put distance between the reader and your first-person character, filtering that character’s encounter. Let’s look at an example to get a better sense:
This was magic school? I stood and stared at it; I thought it seemed to be set up to depress us. I saw the green hill rising from the earth like some cancer, and I could hear the voices of students on the wind, chanting soullessly, as if the wonder and awe of true magic had been whitewashed from their lives.
Not sure what to look for in the paragraph? Here it is with the filter words removed.
This was magic school? It seemed to be set up to depress us. The green hill rose from the earth like some cancer, and the voices of students carried on the wind, chanting soullessly as if the wonder and awe of true magic had been whitewashed from their lives.
What was removed? I thought, I saw, I could hear. In other words, the words that were removed were anything that had you, the reader, looking at her looking at things, rather than looking at the things she saw.
This is the true first-person: being behind the character’s eyes. I have to say in my First Draft, it is riddled with these filters. I have more words to delete.
As I have already said, I am on the 100 days to a First Draft. This gives me deadlines and word counts to meet each Friday. The writers are in groups of ten, as there are actually over 150 writers on the course.
Every Friday I submit a chapter with a word count between 2,500 and 7,500 words. So, on the 19th of June, I should have at least 65,000 words and completed my first draft. The course also adds critiques, so as I submit my chapter, I also have to read chapters by three other writers and critique them.
Critiquing 4,500-word chapters is not easy. Not only do you have to read them but you have to understand and give judgment on what you have learned. The Write Practice would like use to use a sandwich critique. This is where we first comment on something that we prefer and is good. Second, we mention on the constructive criticism. Then thirdly we end with a good comment on what we enjoyed.
This approach does put critiquing in a suggestive comment approach and not the, ‘It’s alright.” club.
It’s simple to avoid giving this kind of feedback for a lot of reasons. It can be incredibly time-consuming. This morning at 9 am I started to critique three separate chapters from three different people. Each chapter was around four thousand words long. I had not only to read but understand and interpret the chapter. After that, I had to find two things I liked so that I could sandwich the constructive critique between them. It can also be challenging to provide a robust feedback to a writer you don’t know very well or at all. It would be easier just to say, “Great story!” but that is not helpful, in any way at all. When you give feedback to an author, you help them develop and learn more about what styles and interactions help information to be passed on to the reader.