When I first began writing The Wooden Ox, it seemed like readers needed to understand all about the war and the desperate situation of the years that we lived in Mozambique. I wrote a chapter about Keri and Kurt home schooling in their garage in Maputo (like we did) and another about loading up the car to get ready to go to Gaza Province to distribute clothes (like we did). I was smart enough to figure out that those chapters wouldn’t interest anyone but my own family who had experienced them. I cut both chapters and worked the necessary information into the chapter about traveling in the military convoy to Gaza. That revised chapter was the first thing I presented to my new critique group of other children’s writers in Indianapolis, Indiana. They were very gracious and praised my writing. Finally one woman said, “I think you should start on page 9.” Page 9? Did she realize that I had already cut two chapters? Maybe I could start on page 7. But she was right. The final text started on page 9 and only included half a page from the earlier eight—the bit about the shot-up farmhouse.
I heartily recommend critique groups, although you may have to shop around to find a group that works for you. Their purpose is to help each member become a better writer, but for critique to work, you have to be willing to take advice. My theory is that there are two kinds of people who can’t learn: dead people and those who think they already know it all.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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