Structurally (Un)sound

Pacing myself

A critique group is a group of writers who meet periodically (either weekly or monthly) to exchange chapters, short stories, essays, poems or articles with other writers. During the week, writers critique their colleagues’ work, then at the next meeting tell the writer what they think of it. Most critique groups focus on one particular genre– fiction, non-fiction, or poetry. Others are even more specific– short stories, memoir, novels, etc.

I participated in a critique group in the fall for my novel. Every week, I turned in a chapter. I received some great feedback from the other writers in my group, as well as the award-winning author who headed it up.

But ultimately, not much of what was said to me is helping me now.


Because my biggest problems with writing a novel are structure and pacing. And when you give a beta reader only one chapter to read every single week, they don’t often remember what they read the week before. They can’t tell you whether the structure is sound, or whether the pace of the plot is moving too quickly or too slowly. They can’t really comment well on your character development, because they only see the character in one chapter at a time.

For a novel, I need people who will take the whole, 10 pound, printed out manuscript and read from start to finish. That’s the only way it can be done.

Are you in a critique group? Do you find it helpful?

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If you didn’t get a chance to yesterday, please stop by the latest installment of WHEN DO YOU WRITE? with Lee Wright! Or, read about all past posters here.

And tune in tomorrow for our 4th guest poster, NY Times best-selling author ANDI BUCHANAN!



6 thoughts on “Structurally (Un)sound

  1. I check the pacing and structure for myself.

    The critique groups I’ve joined and participated in, have been extremely helpful to me and I’ve been with them several years now.

    Over all flow is one of my strongest parts of writing and critiquing. I guess it’s different for every author. I’ve run across some fabulous posts about structure by a writer/editor and have taken his advice to heart.

    He also has a book out that focuses on just story structure.

    I hope this helps. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the links, kittyb78. I envy your “flow” strength. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. You’re welcome. When I read something that doesn’t flow {while I’m critting, I’ll usually point out why it’s not working and suggest ways the writer can improve it. Usually it’s a matter of combing show and tell, or changing from passive voice to active voice. Those are almost always the culprits. 🙂

  4. My own issue with flow/pacing/structure is from chapter to chapter– not within the chapter. This is why the critique group didn’t work for me. My readers couldn’t remember the previous chapters of the book, so they thought it flowed fine. When it reality, it didn’t.

  5. I’m usually good at remembering what I read previously and will comment back on it, but only if it sticks out like a sore thumb. That’s why during revisions, my final one is just for over all flow.

  6. I totally agree with you- there has to be a look at the whole to see the structure and understand if it is being paced. What I normally do with my books is start out VERY SLOW- too slow and then as I get towards the end I speed up almost at lightening speed because I’m sooo eager to finish– so my writing is very BORING at the beginning and then TOO fast at the end!! oh my- I am trying to change this and pace myself better throughout the book.

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