How to Critique – Alpha Version

OMG Scarhoof, when are you getting to talking about critiquing actual prose?

TODAY, CRETIN!

So yeah, after the brainstorming and outlining phases, is when the author writes the actual story.

Finishing your first draft is an essential task, one that many authors never complete, and I plan on discussing this at length in future blog posts, but for today, I just want to talk about how to critique alpha-level prose.

I have a confession. I am pretty selective who I let see my first drafts. It's a key time in an author's process. The story is still very raw, especially for pantsers, and even outliners tend to have scenes that might meander and be all over the board. I'm a bit of both so yeah, the story is still pretty malleable at this stage, and it's very easy for a writer to get "caught up" in the story when writing, thus going off the rails a little bit while drafting.

The important thing to remember about this stage is this: does the story work? You aren't here to critique prose, punctuation, word choices, misspellings, etc. You are one step away from the outline, where you looked at the proposed scenes and gave feedback based on the overall arcs of the story.

The key things to focus on are:

  • boring parts
  • rising and deflating tension
  • author intrusion
  • long, drawn out infodumps,
  • the plot going off the rails
  • anything too unbelievable

Again, I could go at length into these various subjects, but the hat you should be wearing is one of a developmental editor at this point. You are here to make sure the story "works."

Till tomorrow,

Tom

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