Monday, April 20, 2015

The Last Chapter (And the Epilogue)


Post by Jenny

I reached somewhat of a milestone last week, when my critique group finally made it through the last chapter of my novel. (And the epilogue.) For months, I’ve brought one chapter at a time, to have it read aloud by another member of the group. Page by page, we drew closer to the end, until there was only one chapter remaining. (And the…well, you know.)

I admit, I was a bit nervous, much as I was when I brought the first chapter. First and last chapters are important. A novel is kind of like a sandwich in that way. Even if there are great things in the middle, whatever is on both ends (the bread-chapters) must hold it together in a satisfying way. So there I was, with my ending slice of bread—and the pickle on the side, which is how I now think of an epilogue—anxiously hoping it wouldn’t all fall apart.

To my great relief, everyone was happy with the conclusion. Since then, I’ve been thinking of how much I have learned from the process of having a novel critiqued from start to finish. Even though I’m the creator and writer of said novel, I realized that sometimes I don’t know it or the characters as well as I thought. Sometimes I brought a chapter that I felt was a little weak, only to hear that it was solid and served an important purpose in furthering the story. On other occasions, I brought a chapter that felt like a homerun, only to have the group’s astute questions and observations point out the shortcomings of my imagined brilliance.

And my characters, who have taken out long-term leases inside my head…I’m more familiar with them than anyone, and yet there were numerous occasions when a critique group member would say, “I don’t think s/he would do/say that. It seems…“ (You know what’s coming, right?) “Out of character.” More often than not it was the right call, and I would wonder why I didn’t see it. I suppose the reason is that we all have blind spots where our writing is concerned, much as we do with our children. (Except mine, which are perfect.) When a fellow writer can point them out in a kind and constructive way, it is exceptionally helpful. A few tasty snacks don't hurt, either.




If you’re in a critique group, how has it helped you?

2 comments:

RichardK said...

Congratulations on finishing the last chapter. And now, the REWRITE! (Runs to catch Jenny at the point of fainting.)

Patricia Stoltey said...

My critique group members catch stuff I miss all the time. I love 'em.

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