By Heather Justesen
“What does she mean my hook isn’t very strong? Doesn’t she have eyes?” This was my first reaction when I got some feedback on one of my stories recently. After all, if she had read my original beginning, or the second one I wrote, she would certainly have chosen the one I submitted as the best hook, by far. So how could she not realize what a great start it was? The next day I got off my self-righteous streak long enough to read through my first page again and realize she was right. Nuts!
When I got the same reaction from another reader as well, I knew it was time to readjust the first page or two. Yes, it will stay essentially the same, but with a little tweaking, I can strengthen the pull and give my character a reason for some of the things she does.
Unlike the major rewrite I did after writer Josi Kilpack edited it for me, I didn’t cringe as I read through the notes the three women who critiqued the book had written. There are two possible reasons for this 1) I caught enough of the major problems after the edit so these are all minor and therefore, not nearly as painful, and 2) I’ve grown a little more accustomed to having flaws pointed out in my work. I guess it is probably more the first of the two possibilities since Josi is an amazing editor, as is evident when you look at the red-covered copy she sent back to me.
I hate receiving criticism of my work, it often makes me feel like I’ll never get there, like my writing isn’t good enough and it’ll take a serious miracle for it to ever reach that publishable plateau. Then I calm down and look at the notes people wrote on my stories and realize that the majority are completely right. And the only way I can reach that elusive destination of publication is if I clean things up and rewrite.
When I received my first edit from Josi, she wrote a note that went something to the effect of rewriting being the most important part of the job. No, you can’t publish if the original premise is crap, but even if your idea and characters are brilliant, if you aren’t willing to rewrite, to rework and consider different options, to replay your dialogue and keep it from sounding wooden, your book will never sell.
I recently saw a movie, one of those family friendly kind that is never released to theaters, that had a great story line. Unfortunately the acting and dialogue were so flat it was hard to appreciate what could have been a wonderful story. I don’t want my books to be like that.
So, I’ll rework, rewrite, redo, and talk to my critiquers about the plot and when I’m done it’ll be the best story possible.