What I learned:
- The novel works. It has flaws and inconsistencies, but it works.
- I was worried about pacing. it was fine.
- When I started the Lara project five years and about ten drafts ago, I structured the story arc to start and end in the same location. I liked the bookend nature of having the main character and the “mother figure” meet in the first scene and say goodbye in the last scene. My critique partners didn’t agree. Several of them pointed to another scene that would make a more powerful epiphanic ending. Now I have to rethink the whole ending.
- I was worried that the story was too dark. The readers thought it was dark, but not too dark. Two of the characters have cancer and Lara was abused as a child – it’s not a happy go-lucky story but things work out in the end.
- The readers were engaged in Lara’s work life and love life enough to have questions about the finer points of her job.
- Revenge doesn’t need to be complicated but it does need to be dramatic. My critique buddies wanted to see fireworks.
- Copyediting is a skill I don’t have, but other people do. I am indebted to my critique partners for their lessons on comma use and capitalization.
I’m now looking at the novel with new eyes. Simplicity is what I need to strive for in the next draft.