Monday, September 7, 2009

When Last We Met...

Yesterday, September 6, 2009, the Magic City Writers met and reviewed the latest version of the first chapter of Nicole’s story, Broken Shadows. But before we delve into that, lets talk about food.

One of the great advantages of holding the meetings at Nicole’s apartment is that she does the cooking.  In addition to being an excellent writer and an exceptional editor, Nicole completes her trifecta of skills by being an outstanding cook.  As an appetizer she served an Irish white cheddar cheese called Kilaree, toasted pita bread, and a tasty humus dip.  The main course featured chicken and shrimp Pad Thai.  For desert we had pumpkin apple tea bread, which had a texture and taste that was closer to pumpkin cake.  In a word, YUM!

Now back to Broken Shadows. As a disclaimer, I must admit to being biased with regards to Nicole’s chapter because I worked so closely with her on it.

Back in July Nicole wrote about how she was trying a new approach with her writing.  The idea was that she would send me something everyday, which I would then quickly edit and send back to her.  She would address the concerns I raised, add some more to the chapter, and then send the updated document back to me for more edits.  Thus creating a cycle where, ideally, she would be aware of problems early enough that she could correct them, as opposed to becoming overwhelmed and starting over from scratch.

Let me be clear: the actual writing was Nicole’s.  For the most part I merely made sure she was aware of possible issues and offered suggestions for ways to address them.   Sometimes I would suggest a word or a way to rewrite a sentence or restructure a paragraph.  In a handful of cases I pointed out content she might want to include or exclude.  All the final decisions were made by Nicole, all the hard work was done by her.

We continued with this process throughout the month of July and into the middle of August.  Right up to when she submitted the chapter to the group for review.  As Nicole indicated in a later post, right from the beginning this new approach seemed to help her.  I plan to write a post sometime soon about how the exercise in turn helped me.

After reading Nicole’s chapter many times and significantly influencing her final version, I could not be objective during the group review. I have written often about how hard it is to edit your own writing, to see the problems you introduce yourself.  Doing a group edit for Nicole’s chapter was not as difficult for me as editing my own work, but nor was it as easy as editing something I had not seen before or helped create. The result was that I had relatively few comments to make, most of which revolved around rewording some sentences to avoid repeating character names too often.

Of note was that the others in the group also found only a few problem areas.  Everyone agreed that this chapter was good enough that she could, once she finishes writing the rest of the book, confidently submit it to a publisher or agent as is. This is a milestone for the group. I believe it is the first time one of us has reached that level of completeness with a chapter.

Again, I admit to being biased, but I think Nicole’s latest version of her opening chapter is not just the best version of the chapter that she has written so far. I think it is the best chapter to be submitted to the group to date. Her writing is crisp, fresh, and clear. She moves the plot and characters along at steady pace right from the opening paragraph. The flow of events draws you in and makes you want to turn the page to find out what happens next.

This is not meant to indicate there were no problems. Merely that the problems Nicole has left to address are minor compared to the problems in works she and others (including myself) have submitted before.  What she presented to the group is remarkably good, and I must admit to feeling a certain pride for my small role in helping her create it.

Lindy submitted a new work for review next time.  We plan on meeting at my house in three weeks.  I will, of course, keep everyone posted about what happens then as well. Till next time, have fun.


  1. I'm still floating on cloud nine after all of the positive comments about this chapter. It's nice to know that the hard work does eventually pay off!! Now if only I can beat my second chapter into a similar state of submission :)

  2. Nicole, you've earned your kudos, so relish them. Congratulations again.

    Also, thank you. Helping you on a regular basis has dramatically improved my editing skills, which in turn has made me a better writer.