When is a piano like a story?

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The grand piano at our church ended up on its side today. I watched with sweaty hands as the two men detached the lyre and a leg, tipped the piano over and removed its brass wheels.

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There’s a good reason for what they were doing. The nearly-700 pound instrument needs to be moved occasionally and its little two-inch brass wheels push the carpet along, causing it to stretch and bulge. There’s also every possibility of a move one day breaking off a piano leg! They aren’t as sturdy as they look.

We decided the solution was to install a “truck dolly” — a heavy spider-like metal device which supports the piano legs. The dolly’s five inch rubber wheels with ball bearings allow the piano to be easily moved with a gentle push. The service techs knew what had to be done and how to do the task without damage to the piano. While I understood that, I still cringed as I watched them wrestle the weighty instrument to the ground.

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I was there to open the church doors, supervise the installation and eventually hand over the necessary cheque, but of course I had also brought my camera along and I took pictures. Tonight as I review the photos I am struck by the similarity of the procedure to my manuscript revisions and rewrites.

We focus on getting our stories written because, after all, how often have we heard, “You can edit anything except a blank page?” We keep writing, and much like Topsy the story keeps growing as we work toward a novel-length word count.

The strange thing is, when we finally reach the end we may be holding a word-weighted tome that isn’t finished at all. It needs help. The plot doesn’t move smoothly. Even if we edit and revise, pushing the words around until the story is in danger of collapse, it often isn’t until someone more knowledgeable — an experienced critique partner or editor — gets hold of it, that a solution is found. Among other things, shoring up the story may mean getting rid of inadequate scenes or reinforcing the plot with stronger characters.

As nervous as I am about letting others get their hands on ‘my baby’, I know the right support will strengthen it.

Do you seek out advice from beta readers and critique buddies? How willing are you to take the advice of those who might suggest major changes in your manuscripts?

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2 thoughts on “When is a piano like a story?

  1. christicorbett says:

    I have two critique partners that read every chapter and give feedback. I stagger it so one reads first, then I make adjustments based upon their comments, and then I send it to the next one.

    What I’ve found particularly helpful is when they both mention the same thing…either as being good or bad.

    That first picture made me gasp because I thought the piano had fallen off the stage, two men happened to catch it, and you were in the right place at the right time to take a picture :)

    Christi Corbett

  2. joylene says:

    Truck dolly is a great idea. The piano does look heavy. As for my writing group. I don’t know what I’d do without them. Some advice is iffy, but I don’t dismiss it without careful consideration. I think they deserve my attention since they went to all they trouble of critiquing my work in the first place.

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