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Novel Critique Cupcakes

Over the weekend, my wise writing partner Christina Mitchell fed me the best cupcake of my life (gooey chocolate filled with raspberry curd and topped with cream cheese / pudding / sour cream icing and sugar crystals) and dropped a bomb of a critique on the opening to my new novel, The Grove of Thorismud.

"I don't want to say it," she said.

"Just say it!" I begged.

And I'm so glad she did, because, as happens frequently, she was right.

She told me that I need to start this novel in a completely different place.

No biggie, right? That's a common revision to a first draft, and I'd only written about one chapter of the new book anyway.

Except she realized that the story needs to begin with the final quarter of my "prequel," Briars and Black Hellebore, and move on from there with lots of action and very little backstory.

That first three-quarters of Briars and Black Hellebore is all backstory, most of which doesn't need to see the light of day. It needs to be composted for the good of The Grove of Thorismud. Scrapped, burned, shredded, buried. The most exciting portion of Briars (the simultaneous climax of the two fairy tales--ahem, that's what she said) is really the inciting incident, and the end of Briars is right where the story starts to get interesting.

I saw the light immediately, but of course it's wise to get a second or third opinion on a big decision like this. So I traveled to the shrine of Freddie, Chipmuk Oracle of the Zen Garden behind a local dance studio.


"Chip chip!" he said. "Go nuts with that rewrite."

And then I asked my mermaid friend Esperanzita to consult with the forces of darkness. (I think maybe she mistakenly heard "consort" instead of "consult.")

Esperanza kneels before Papa Emeritus of Swedish metal band Ghost

As it turns out, the forces of darkness love endless novel rewrites.

So here I go, back to page one.

Critique partners, never be afraid to drop that bomb on your friends' manuscripts when you know what could make them better than ever. But also note that chocolate-and-raspberry-curd cupcakes really help the medicine go down.

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