Lately, I've been priviledged to be able to watch a few novel drafts take shape in my writer's group. This is a fascinating prospect. Narratives shift and carve new tracks and characters separate from their creators and voices find their proper key and something that was a draft yesterday becomes a novel and I become a reader first and a commenter second. Amazing and then very, very cool.
However, to quote Practical Magic, "with the sweets, come the sours." I have a firm set of assumptions, beliefs, and graveyards that I whistle past as a person. When I am looking at pacing and characterization and the few grammar/style things I know, I sometimes run across something that shoves me from my comfort zone. I am uncomfortable and it feels "wrong." Although this is not a value judgment (i.e., it would be better if this moved quicker), my reaction is similiar enough that I find myself marking sentences and making suggestions to "fix" the discomfort.
It becomes more challenging when I'm faced with a novel that tends toward a conclusion that runs counter to my beliefs. How do I modify my responses so that I am looking only at the shape of the story and not at its content? There is about this a chill of academic remove that I have not yet had to develop. More than remove, however, there is the understanding of uncomfortable plots and themes such that they lose their discomfort.
The separation between the passion of one writer and reader and that of a different writer and reader is as difficult for me as that of separating myself as an intimate participant in my story from myself as a objective editor of that same story.
This is a skill that I could have mastered had I stayed in college. I should have stayed.