Turns out that I wasn't the only one starting to feel like that. A small number of us branched out and began our own smaller group specifically for critique partners. We set clear expectations of what kind of help we're looking for, and then whole works (or up-to-the-point-it-gets-tricky works) are read, critiqued, and thus begins the dialogue for follow up. I like this approach better, because it's not 2000 people asking "Is this a good sentence?" every time they go to write something.
So far it's been a great experience. I've been reading work in various stages of completion, of various genres, and with very different author approaches. This is where the teacher in me comes out. I like seeing the whole picture of what the writer is trying to do, and so it then becomes my job to make sure that the writer themselves are being mindful of what they are trying to convey too.
I'm not a very structured writer myself. I've tried so many writing programs and organizers, plotting formulas, character breakdowns, etc. And while each of these things in their various forms do have their benefits, they aren't all for me. I don't even think that I have a solid system of my own in place yet, but every project I work on starts to add another layer to my process, and I expect that whatever my process looks like now will be entirely different 10 years from now. I grow, I expect my writing habits to as well.
Now, having just finished the 3 Day Novel Contest, and with NaNoWriMo preparation already looming over the horizon, I thought why not share some of the advice that's come up. Maybe it'll work for you, maybe it won't, but new approaches rarely hurt that much.
I don't know how many of these posts I will do, or how often they'll come up. It just seemed like the feedback I was giving might benefit more than just the writers I've been working with. And of course, if I receive any great tips, I'll be sure to let you know.
Actually, I can leave you with one of the comments I got back from the novel I last submitted:
1) "You really like the word "so", don't you?" - Well, no, I don't, but it's a 1st person narrative and apparently he does.
Word over-use. Really easy to spot in someone else's work, less easy to spot in your own unless it's on word steroids. I know for a fact that on day 3 of the 3 Day Novel every other sentence seemed to have "clearly" inserted in it somewhere - which isn't a good word to give steroids to in any form of writing. The general rule is if something is "clear" then you shouldn't have to go out of your way to point it out, should you? And if you have to, well then it isn't clear at all, and you're probably just making your reader feel like an idiot for not being inside your brain as you made all of those connections behind the scenes. I imagine that my use of "so" in the above novel is probably just as redundant. I haven't gone back over it with a fine-tooth comb yet, but that'll be my project for this week: what purpose does this use of "so" bring to the table that isn't conveyed without using it at all, or that can't be conveyed without using another word?
If you want to try to catch those pesky juiced-up words, try running your work through a program that will identify the most common words. Put it in a wordle and at least make it look pretty. If done properly, your most common words should be character names. If "clearly" so much as makes an appearance, however tiny, do a "search" or "find" in your original document and hunt those suckers down. They'll need to earn their place in your book!
Unfortunately, "so" is one of those common words that wordle tends to omit, just as it would "the" or "a". Let's just take that as a reminder that no automated program will ever replace the need for some human eyes as well.