Our critique group gathered for its regular meeting last week. Members submitted a variety of genres and topics which resulted in lively discussions with lots of give and take.
One discussion centered on the different issues a writer has when starting a piece compared to the process needed for polishing a finished piece.
When a writer wants to work with an idea (we’re talking fiction here) some kind of outline is developed (if that is the way the writer works). At the very least, the writer must have clear ideas about what genre, what time frame, what POV, what setting best suits a particular idea. Where will the writer start the story and where will it end? How will the plot unroll so that it is logical but also encompasses twists, turns, surprises and suspense? This part of the writing process establishes the underlying structure, or armature, of the piece.
At the other end of the process, it’s time to polish. The story has setting, plot, characters and a solid form with a beginning, middle and end. How to get it to shine?
Take a bird’s eye view. Look at the writing as a whole, keeping in mind the overall story arc while carefully reviewing word choice, pacing and consistency of action. Are the characters well served by every element in the dialogue, does the story move exactly at the right speed or does the pacing need to be tightened, loosened? Does the end follow solidly from the beginning?
The writer needs to let go of his/her ego and make decisions that serve the story best, a story that, by now should be “speaking” so strongly that it will be fairly easy to know what to keep and what to change or drop.
What about you? How do you start? How is that process different from putting on the finishing touches?
An even bigger question: how do you know when the polishing is done? That’s a question for later… stay tuned!