I’m writing another mystery novel. Not because my first manuscript has been scooped up by a publisher, but because I listened to professionals and laid it aside to work on something new. Advice from those same pros pound in my ears. “Grab the reader with the first lines, keep the plot moving, build scenes to crescendo to an arc, and tie up all the loose ends before the last page.”
I write without an outline—flying by the seat of my pants. Or, a more accurate description would be the tips of my fingers on a computer keyboard. My first drafts are rough as hand-hewn trees felled for a log cabin retreat. I sidestep that knowledge and offer it for review.
Meet my critique group. Six dedicated writers with diverse talents who review selected chapters of my draft novella the third Thursday of each month. An eclectic novelist group, from cozy sci-fi to suspense sandwiched between historical fiction and women’s rights, diversity binds us together. They applaud my writing strengths and assess my flaws. They ask questions that let me reshape my fictional characters into life-like people. They probe and poke. Now and then, they smile and nod an affirmative. They accept this task like dissecting a stinking frog for science class, or examining a cadaver in medical training. They dissect my stinking manuscript and make it come out smelling like a rose.