Working with a writing coach has been interesting because The Grinder, as I call her, has torn my manuscript to pieces. In other words, it sucked ass. I think the story is good but that remains to be seen. The execution of it was really bad. And I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what nor how to fix it. So I called The Grinder.
She has given me line by line critiques, and I had to decide whether to use them or not. When the critique was technical, like grammar or structure, there would be no question. I'd either make the edit or rewrite that part. However, when it came to suggestions such as logical progression of the story, or to reveal certain story elements earlier, then I'd have to take the time to think if this would work for the overall book. I'd either do the edits/rewrites, or decide that her suggestion won't work and move on.
Having done an overhaul on my book over the past two years, I needed people to read it to see their reactions, do some fine tuning. So I'm fortunate to be a part of a writing group filled with writers that are also working on their own books. We trade pages each week and critique each other's work. And it's going really well. For me, reading other peoples' works allows me to apply what The Grinder has taught me.
Yesterday was an interesting session because one of the authors challenged my critiques.
He tries to be really efficient with his writing. He doesn't use dialogue tags, which makes it difficult to know who's speaking, especially at the start of the scene. Many times I have to re-read lines to figure out who's speaking. I think making the reader work hard when they're already piecing together the images he's trying to paint isn't a good idea.
The other issue I have is he's telling instead of showing. A simple example, he often writes something like 'She lets out a sigh' instead of 'She sighs'. If he wants his writing to be efficient, then 'She sighs' is it, and the wording is stronger. Look at it this way:
She gives her man a beating
She beats her man
They're both still telling, not showing, but by linking the noun directly with the verb, the wording is much stronger. To make it vivid:
She punched her man in the face
This is a much stronger image that plays against the expectation of her kicking him in the balls, leaving us wondering why she punched him instead.
Here's another example:
She gave him a pointed look
I suggested that he show this. He then gave me a pointed look and asked what I thought that meant.
It doesn't matter what I thought because he wasn't showing, at least not clearly enough for me. She could be pointing with her forehead, chin, index finger, nostril, tongue, or tits. Or was he describing a look that was pointed, whatever that means.
Now the critiquer in me wouldn't mind this as much, but he was telling way more than showing, and I thought he needed to help the reader out a bit.
The thing is that he challenged my suggestions on his work that are just that: suggestions. It's his book. He can ignore everything I say. I have no power when it comes to his writing. Literally.
In one of my suggestions, I told him I didn't have a problem with one of his sentences, but remembered something similar that my writing coach had pointed out. He said, "She's not my writing coach." And I said, "OK," and moved on. I'm not about to argue with someone who isn't willing to listen, and again, it's not my book. I'm just trying to help.
The lesson here is that my opinion, or anyone else's, has no real power over you. And if you think there is, then you're the one giving those words power.
Sticks and stones.