The Critique Chorus

When I was a kid and I had to decide between doing the right thing and something I wanted to do, I would hear my mother’s voice or my priest’s sermons. This didn’t always change my actions but their words did make it clear to me that there would be consequences. Oh boy, would there be consequences.

Lately, I find that when I work on my novel, I hear the women in my critique circle telling me I can do better. That I used that word three times on this page. Or that I have confused my pronouns beyond redemption. Better than Grammarly, my girls know my voice and encourage me while saying, “You can do better.”

020920 chorus line

In the origins of Theatre, which apparently only happened in Greece, a chorus of 50 men would dance and sing and describe the action on the stage. Remember, big theater, small stage, lots of room between the two. And no electronics. So in my mind, my Critique Chorus tells me what I am doing wrong and how to change it. Luckily in 5, BCE, the chorus was downsized to 12. My chorus is a mere 4 people unless you add in the characters, imaginary readers, extremely sweet editor, and book store owners.

020920 salad

I’ll be typing along in Scrivener, at a brisk 7 words per minute, when suddenly the Chorus shouts, “Stop!” “What?” is my terse and witty reply. “There,” they tell me. “You said ‘her salad’ then again you said ‘her salad’ and when she left the coffee shop you said ‘her salad’.” I’m blinking by now, wondering how else to describe a bowl of lettuce that a woman is eating and protecting from a madman. “But it is her salad.”

020920 maybe a thesaurus

They open the link to the online Thesaurus. They point out “greens”, “mixed greens”, and a name like Waldorf or Cesar or Asian chicken. Huh. I go back and edit. I manage to change two of the uses to something else. I type on, looking for other repeat words. Smile is one of my worst ones. I try grin or smirk. Yes, smirk is good for the bad guy.

020920 support

My Chorus is quiet as I finish up the chapter. I save my work, close my laptop, and pack up to go home. Then I hear, “ Two weeks to the next circle! Did you write 25K new words? Is the writing fresh and do the scenes move the story forward? What do you want the critiquers to be looking for?” But this time I can ignore them. Tomorrow is another writing day.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

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