“In MY Version of Your Story,” Revisited

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: October 12, 2011
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Comments: 4 Comments

Back in August, Addie wrote about the importance of not imposing one’s views when critiquing a manuscript. [Read her post here.] Everything she said is worth studying and thoughtfully applying.

And yet… At the risk of sounding like the wolf in Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, I want to offer some additional thoughts to stand alongside the important things Addie said.

Yes, dear reader, I am the “In MY version of your story” Scriva. The phrase arose some years ago, before Viva Scriva existed, when Nicole and I met weekly to write. At times we discussed our works-in-progress. Nicole had begun her novel Mercury’s Daughter, set in 16th century Flanders and involving astronomy and lace-making.

You know how sometimes you read a book, or see a movie, that’s so intriguing you keep mulling it over? Nicole’s novel was that good. However, it wasn’t finished yet! So, nature abhorring a vacuum, my brain raced ahead with how the story might develop. In one place, I married elements present in the story to felicitously resolve later matters.

There’s good trust and friendship between us, so when I blabbed to Nicole about the thing I’d imagined as though it was in fact in her book, we both got a kick out of it. Just recently, I learned she liked my idea so well she’s using it.

“In MY version of your story” acknowledges that what I’ve come up with is not necessarily what you are doing. It’s a possible path your story can take, an option for you to consider—if it rings true to you, if it inspires you in the direction you want to go. If you like it, great, use it. If you don’t, no problem.

It may have happened to you too. Problems are pointed out in a manuscript and you know exactly how to fix them. Occasionally, though, you’re stuck in the dark. The person critiquing doesn’t know how to fix the problem, either, but only that something isn’t working. Liz is famous among us for saying, “I don’t know how you’ll do it, but I know you can!” We love her confidence in us, and this has become a Viva Scriva catchphrase.

In our group, manuscripts can be, and are, submitted over and over. It’s a tremendous benefit we offer each other. Interestingly, we don’t weary of reading the same material, but marvel at the progress made as Scrivas revise per past comments. So we have more than one shot at resolving issues that don’t work. Still, at times doing so feels like playing Blind Man’s Buff, or that other children’s game where an object is hidden and you must find it guided only by cries of “Warm, cold, warm, warmer, HOT!”

That’s why I appreciate it when the Scrivas offer ideas about how to fix a problem—which, in fact, they do often enough. Of course, the Scrivas are seasoned and/or professional writers, not newbies learning how to critique or how to write at a professional level. Sometimes their ideas may be integrated as offered, or they can serve as a starting point for solutions that feel right to the writer. The crucial thing, what makes it work, is that ideas are offered, not prescribed or pushed on anyone.

It reminds me of years ago, when I lived with housemates as dear to me as sisters. When J. Lynne got married, three of us accompanied her as she shopped for a wedding dress. Upstairs in that elegant brownstone in South Philly, J. Lynne tried on a zillion dresses, then had to decide among her three favorites. What did we think?

It turned out that each of us liked a different dress best. That was good. “It frees me to pick the dress I really want,” she said. And she did. It wasn’t my contender, if you’re wondering. She looked absolutely beautiful anyway.

But enough about that. Let’s talk now about my version of YOUR story…

-Sabina I. Rascol

Post Revisions:

4 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. Amber Keyser says:

    Like Sabina, I love it when suggestions are proffered, but I think this approach in a critique group requires a high degree of trust and it requires that the writer be confident enough to forge her own way through the suggestions. For those less experienced in critique/revision, I could imagine that suggestions might be paralyzing.

  2. I am definitely one who LOVES to hear different ideas about where my story can go. It may be because I am not necessarily an “outliner” but a “fly by the seat of my pants” writer. Although, I do have an outline for my current WIP that Sabina was mentioning, at the time she first read it, I didn’t. Of course, even now with an outline, I love hearing different ideas or “versions.” But I think other writers may have a vision from the get go that they want to stick to, and that’s fine, as long as there is communication between all the critique members that a writer is not looking for an “idea” kind of critique. They may want just a “is this working” critique or a line-edit type of critique. It’s good to let everyone know beforehand what the writer wants us to look for so the members of the group know how to critique the piece.

  3. this post is quoted by Once the Baby Is Born « Viva Scriva says:

    […] in the manuscript that I couldn’t see or didn’t want to see. I can still hear Scriva Sabina saying, “In my version of your story….” As writers, the Scrivas offered “constructive criticism” in the very best sense […]

  4. this post is quoted by Unsure? Try a Smorgasbord « Viva Scriva says:

    […] invite to comment on your story, an idea of where you think you’re going with your story. Then their versions of your story can be in step with the story you want to tell. And your setting out a smorgasbord may inspire […]

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