Ah, more layers. I did a post awhile ago about Working In Layers. And now I’m expanding to talk about Reading & Critiquing In Layers.
What Is Layering?
As explained in my earlier post, think of layering like your body. Underneath everything is the skeleton. Add muscle tissue, skin, and then all the fine details that make the person interesting and unique on the outside.
When I spoke about Working In Layers, I explained how I edit in different stages or levels – or layers. It’s all the same concept. First I’ll write the story, then I’ll edit for fluff. Then I’ll edit for tension. Then I’ll edit for grammar, and so and so forth. Every layer adds something more to the work as a whole, and ultimately you’ll end up with a polished novel. I don’t like to do all of it at once. It’s too much. I find that if I work in layers, I can keep things much better organized and under control.
I also talk about layers as in layers or levels of meaning in a work. I also add layers like the symbolic layer. This often comes later when I can see how symbols and themes in the novel are coming together and where I can tighten them and make them shine.
What Is Reading In Layers?
I currently have my novel Monarch up for beta reading and up on its own novel blog for invited readers. After receiving some great feedback, I suddenly realized that like working in layers, we can also read in layers.
If you read The Great Gatsby, for instance, you might first read it for the PLOT layer. Then on your next read, since you know the plot, you’ll read for the SYMBOLS layer. Then maybe for the CHARACTERS layer. And so on and so forth. Being an English major, I usually read multiple layers at a time. However, I don’t think most readers do.
Judging from the feedback I’m receiving on Monarch, I’m beginning to see that many readers critique only specific layers. One specific reader (and no, it isn’t anyone who reads this blog) made me want to scream, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! Didn’t you see what I was trying to do with that point of view? Hello! It’s obvious. If you would just read a little more carefully!”
Then I took a step back and made myself breathe normally.
This reader was not seeing certain layers – besides the fact that I have not made that layer CLEAR enough yet, anyway. After realizing this, it was suddenly evident what I need to work on and which layer needs the most attention. I don’t want that layer to be obvious, but I certainly want it clearer than it is!
I don’t know about you, but I always read in multiple layers. Many readers pick up a book for only one layer – the ENTERTAINMENT or PLOT layer. I know I do sometimes. But many other readers are looking for something more to sink their teeth into.
What Is Critiquing In Layers?
My novel Monarch works on many different layers, but many of them are still not meshing right yet. It creates a discord that many readers cannot pinpoint.
For those of you who critique other works, try and remember that there may be several layers to get through. A good critique often involves more than one read-through. However, I know I certainly don’t have time to beta read a novel more than once! So I try and put my time to its best use and critique several layers as I go.
If something doesn’t feel right, I’ll step back and look at it from different angles. I’ll ask myself, is the writer trying to be symbolic here? Is that a layer I have not paid attention to yet? Sometimes it helps to take notes of certain threads and layers running through the story so you don’t forget.
But that’s just me. I’m a layer girl.