Phoenix Comicon has a whole slew of programming for authors, and two of them were Writer’s Critique groups. It required signing up in advance, and the queue formed an hour before sign up would begin. Authors would have two minutes to read a short piece or excerpt from a larger work, then would get feedback from professional authors. The wonderful authors that volunteered for this were Sharon Skinner and Tom Leveen.
I was working with a first draft of a section of Tuatha dé Rising
that focuses entirely on a performance delivered only through movement. My first concern was whether I had hit the right balance of describing movement so that the reader could see what was happening, without getting into such intricate detail that the pacing slogged. My second concern was that the scene was viewed from two different visual modes: One from the audience and one from a character seeing the world through the sight of the supernatural beings in Tuatha dé Rising
. The second concern I wanted to address was whether the way I chose to present the visual differences created the effects I was hoping for. Trying to strip down the draft so that my two minute reading could present both of these concerns was a valuable exercise in itself.
Neither of the pro authors had problems with the issues I was concerned about, so that much was a success. It is clear, however, that my years of writing research journal articles have dulled my prose. My coauthors in research typically objected to presenting strong hypothesis regarding what I thought results were occurring, so the research papers get riddled with what I call “weasel words” that weaken up the hypothesis so that it won’t be as embarrassing to the authors if our theories are contradicted by evidence from future studies. I hadn’t realized that the weasel words had snuck into my prose to weaken impacts there too. I am glad that I am now aware to look for this in my revisions.
I also intrigued members of the audience who wanted to know more about how my story turns out, and who volunteered to be beta readers. (Beta readers are wonderful people that read stories before they are submitted to publishers that give critical feedback on grammar, plotholes, and so forth. Beta readers can’t be friends and family, though, because they tend to say “Wow, you wrote a book! Its awesome!” rather than “The first paragraph on page 3 is entirely unnecessary and should be scrapped… and you have to change the combat scene too because werewolves don’t have wings.”)
Tuatha dé Rising requires a lot more work before it is ready for beta reading. Still, having this first public reading of it was a rewarding step along the path to publishing.