Critiques today: Emily Fockler (YA fantasy with indentured boy magicians), Gio Clairval (near-future SF in Indonesia with trippy sushi, demons, and ghosts), Emily Wagner (near-future dystopian sci-fi), and me. I was up for the chopping block first. I submitted my weird fantasy novel August And Counting for week 1 critique. I’m usually a plotter and love planning, so AAC was unusual in that beyond the skeleton foundation of “a cranky old lady who can see life numbers, a toy cat with six lives, and a teen living assistant,” I pantsied most of it and the novel wrote itself.
I got lots of good feedback and consensus on what worked and what needed work. Everyone agreed that my protagonist Hanna—a cantankerous, foul-mouthed, mathematically-inclined centenarian—is distinct, funny, likeable, and a “winner of a character,” as Nancy put it. I was pleased that I nailed my main character, since she’s the center of the story and everyone else’s arcs revolve around her.
As for what to work on, everyone also agreed on:
-making the vague setting clearer (product of pantsing)
-giving the villain an earlier, more explicit appearance (also a product of pantsing)
-make the unborn baby less of a deus ex-machina (yet another product of pantsing)
-giving the opening scenes more tension and suspense
-fleshing out Marie (the pregnant runaway teen who becomes Hanna’s living assistant), instead of making her quickly accepting a living toy cat and being meek and eager-to-please all the time
Even though my VP classmates have already critiqued August And Counting in its entirety back in April, it’s still great to hear more from my classmates and instructors at Taos. It’s awesome to hear concrete opinions instead of nebulous nagging doubts swirling in my head. The opening chapter is what agents will see first, so I really want to make it as strong as I can. Walter ended the day with a walkthrough on the plot and literary devices used in Nova, a novel by Samuel Delany.
I went out with the Baranowskis, Suzanne, Mark P, and Emily F to the Enchanted Circle Brewing Company. For the next two hours I chilled in the hot tub and chatted up a storm with Suzanne, the two Brians, the two Emilys, and the two Marks. Suzanne and I found out that we started out with writing fanfiction (and still do!). We had a blast until closing time. This was the day I realized that one of the best parts about being a writing workshop like Taos are my classmates and I making jokes and references to our critiqued stories.