Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ever Been 'Almost'?

It's got all the pieces: a spunky seventy-five year old protagonist, her contemporary arch nemesis, corporate politics, zombies, Twinkies, booby traps, and hand grenades. The voices are strong, and the dialogue is funny.

But it's just not there.

I don't usually write short stories--I'm one of those odd people who find novels easier--but I had an idea for one that really appealed to me. The problem is, it's stuck with a horrible case of "almost." Almost funny, almost readable, almost what I'm looking for. Almost.

That's where readers' group comes in.

I read the piece aloud to them last night (the first ten pages anyway), and they nailed it. They saw what I couldn't, and gave me some ideas of how to fix it.

These were things that sounded obvious when they said it, but, for all my trying, I just hadn't caught myself. Now, I can go back and eliminate a couple of scenes, write a new one, and re-stage the opening to be more reflective of the ending to bring it all together. I think I now have what it takes to kick it out of "Almost" and into "It's there!"

This is the value of having critique groups. Never underestimate how important they are.

Have you ever had a piece stuck at "Almost"? How did you get it out? And what's the most useful thing you've gotten from a critique group, if you have one?


  1. I must admit, I don't have a critique group, online or local. I recognize this is something I should take care of, but I'm not sure when that will be. I don't know any writers near me, and I'm the introverted homebody type. An online group would be easier, I suppose. I should get on this. :/

  2. Google+ has a great writing community, if you're on there, and has a really cool hangout feature where you can talk to people in person. Otherwise, you might try the QueryTracker discussion boards; that site is useful pretty much top to bottom! I bet some of the people on the NaNoWriMo boards are looking for critique partners right now, too. They don't have to write the same things you do, just be good at reading them. And if you want to look online but meet in person, my city (for one) has a great writing group on

    But not all critique groups are formal, anyway. Sometimes just having a good beta reader is all you need.