Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anatomy of a Critique by Leah St. James

After an almost two-year “hiatus,” I’ve finally returned to work on a full-length fiction project. It’s the sequel to my debut novel ("Surrender to Sanctuary"), currently titled “Sanctuary’s Promise.” Before starting, I read through what I’d written and realized one reason why I’d stopped: I’d written myself into the weeds with a plot so convoluted, I couldn’t have hacked my way out with a machete!

To the rescue was my CP (a/k/a hubby). In my family we call him the “Plot Master” because he has this annoying ability to guess the plot of almost every movie and TV show (including twists and turns) within minutes. He spent about a month reading my draft and taking notes and giving me silent “What were you thinking?” head shakes. When he was done, he had filled a one-inch binder with notes and suggestions.

When I hefted the binder in my hands, my first instinct was to run back to my non-writing cave and lose myself in Facebook, but then I put on my big girl undies and went to work. After reading through his notes twice, I realized how right he was about much of it. Still, I didn’t agree with everything he suggested. In fact, our initial conversation went something like this:

Me: (Tosses binder on the couch and heads to the kitchen for a bracing cup of English breakfast tea.)

Him: (Shouting at my back) “I guess you don’t like my suggestions?”

Me: (Back in the living room) “I am NOT writing another how-to novel on erotic lifestyles! The sequel isn’t about that. It’s about the murder of (secret plot point) and the discovery of (another secret plot point)!"

Him: (Throws up hands) “Okay, fine. But what about the rest? You have the characters ALL WRONG.”

Me: “How the heck (word changed to protect this blog’s PG rating) would you know? They’re MY characters!”

Him: “You’re right, Leah. It’s your book. Do what you want.” (Turns his attention to his tablet for another game of solitaire.)

After several moments of self-reflection during which I felt like an a** because he had put a lot of thought into his suggestions and much of his critiques were spot on (and yes, I know how lucky I am that my husband cares so much and can share in my process!), I convinced him to sit with me to review and discuss in depth. We spent the afternoon brainstorming (he actually liked some of my new ideas!), and now I have a pared-down, streamlined plot that has me enthused about the story and about writing again.

Since then I can’t say I’ve been burning up the page count stats, but I am writing again, and I am enjoying the process. I’m looking forward to sharing my progress in the weeks/months ahead!

For now, I’ve dropped the price on that first book, and my second , to 99 cents through the month of September. They’re available only on Kindle and are included in the Kindle Unlimited program so subscribers can read for free.

Romantic Suspense / Adult (Erotic Theme)

FBI agents Anna Parker and David Owens go undercover into a world of domination and submission to solve a murder at the Jersey Shore. Read more, including the story behind the story and an excerpt here.



Paranormal Romantic Suspense Novella
Finalist, 2012 International Digital Awards (short paranormal category)

When the body of an FBI recruit is discovered in the basement of FBI Headquarters, agent Jackson Yates teams up with paranormal psychologist Rachael Sullivan to find her killer. The ghost tags along to help. :-) More here.



Leah writes stories of crime and passion, mystery and suspense, and most of all love. She loves to chat with readers on Facebook and occasionally posts things on Pinterest (like recipes that look good that she’ll probably never make).


Rolynn Anderson said...

Wow, Leah. I'm so jealous you're married to your own plot genius. Do you know how lucky you are? My husband, a non-fiction reader, supports my writing completely, but still hasn't read most of my books. You have a hub who makes notes! Take the fella out to dinner; give him a back rub...encourage him all you can! Seriously jealous here!

Jannine Gallant said...

Very cool that he's helping you with the plot. Good luck finishing your new and improved manuscript!

Brenda Whiteside said...

I had to laugh. That conversation could've taken place in my house. My husband reads all of my books and gives me feedback--not as detailed as yours, but still good feedback. On my last book, I ignored him. He was rather vague..."too much romance" "hard to get into the plot" things like that. So, I figured it was the romance and sent the book off to my editor. She sent it right back after only ready 3 chapters. I should've questioned FDW on exactly what he meant and saved my embarrassment. So glad you're writing again.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Lucky you, Leah. My husband happens to fall in between. He's good with the plot ideas and some of the scenes and does help with brainstorming and accuracy (he has that law enforcement background) but doesn't write notes or (darn him!) type. Although, lucky us, the hubses do support the craziness of our writing. Best wishes on going great guns on your latest effort.

Andrea Downing said...

Oh, lucky you. Treasure him.

Leah St. James said...

I am lucky, I know! Maybe I have been taking him a tad for granted though. Hmmmm...

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Jannine! Despite my plotting genius, I'll take all the luck I can get. :-)

Leah St. James said...

He isn't always this detailed. Sometimes he says things like, "Something is wrong. I just don't know what." :-) I am grateful for all he did.

Alison Henderson said...

I'm so glad you ultimately got some plotting help from your OG. My OG has never read a single word I've ever written. Not that I've asked him to. He has an English degree from Princeton, and I don't really want to know what he thinks of my writing. LOL. I have, however, bounced a few plot ideas off him from time to time, and he's been very helpful!

Leah St. James said...

That must be great to have a law enforcement connection, Margo. I'm happy with the help I get though! Thanks for the good wishes!

Diane Burton said...

Leah, I am so happy you're back to writing and enjoying it. I thoroughly enjoyed your 2 books and will be excited to read the sequel to Sanctuary. I could've written Rolynn's response. Hubs is a nonfiction reader, although he will read my books. Not many comments other than "pretty good." I take what I can get. If I run ideas by him, he will offer insights I hadn't thought of. He's more interested in the financial aspect. Like ROI on time and money for promo. I try to explain how difficult this is to determine. At least, he is interested and supportive of my writing.

Leah St. James said...

I do, Andi, and for much more than his plotting help. :-)

Leah St. James said...

I don't think I'd let him read if he had an English degree from Princeton, Alison. Lol! He's an accountant so numbers are his thing. And plots. :-)

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Diane! I appreciate that! :-) My hubby looks at ROI, too, so I try not to bring up the finances if I don't have to!

Alicia Dean said...

I love that he is so involved, and so intuitive! I also LOVE that you are writing again. Cannot wait for this book. I'll be sure to spread the word for you about your sales. I adore your writing, so get cracking!! :)