I am in the midst of a revision to my YA Contemporary. My attempt to soften my MC has gone horribly awry, and I have accidentally transformed her from a cruel bitch into a whiny sod. It's easily fixable and can probably be accomplished with a few well-placed scene adjustments. Problem is, I can't quite pinpoint those scenes. I will, once I get some space from the piece. In attempt to do just that, I picked up a beta read this weekend, a quick critique of a novella for a long-standing writing friend of mine. Now beta reading to clear my mind is nothing new for me, nor is it outside my comfort zone.
Critiquing decidedly adult content, however, is.
What did I gain from doing this? Well, I've come to the understanding that there is a marked distinction between what some people consider adult romance and erotica. Hands done, this women is an extremely talented writer with a rather impressive list of publishing credentials, but when you take out the sex scenes, and you actually have plot . . . a well thought out, emotionally-driven plot with extensive threads. In well-written adult romance, the sex is used as a tool to enhance the connections between the characters as opposed to being the central theme of the book.
I learned that it is possible to create a fully-engaging, well-constructed story in under one-hundred pages. I couldn't do it. Don't get me wrong, I can edit the hell out of my own manuscripts, but ask me to tell any one of my characters stories in under 100 pages and I probably hurl something at you. There is not enough coffee in the world for me to even consider giving that kind of condensing a try.
Oh, and I learned at least thirty new ways to describe the male anatomy. What's that? You want me to share my new found vocabulary? Yeah . . . well . . .no.
How about you? Do you ever step outside your comfort zone when writing to critiquing? If not you should try; I guarantee it will make you a stronger, more balanced writer.