One of my critique partners just finished Prayer and Prey today. It's the first time anyone has read all the way through, and considering I wrote the entire thing in a month, and have done very little revision on it yet, I'm happy with his comments. He thinks it is the best book I've written, which surprises me. Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately - he hates the ending. I originally wrote Prayer and Prey as a short story, but it grew bigger than a short story had any right to be, so I decided it needed to be a novel.
The writing a book in a month idea was daunting, but because I had the outline of the short story already there, I thought I could use that as kind of a map. It didn't quite work that way, but it did help. But the ending is kind of a cop out. I only got this guy's comments this morning, but already I have an excellent idea of a new ending which will be a lot less tragic and overblown. It will also give one of my minor characters, a thirteen-year-old farmhand who wanted to hijack the novel for a while during the writing phase, more of a part.
All in all, given I need to add about 15-20K to the novel to make it a more acceptable length for an adult novel, this feedback has been perfect. I can take my time with the ending and a lot less blood will be shed. And Ben will finally be given the breathing room he really wanted. I'm looking forward to exploring his relationship with his father.
This is an example of where critique groups are so incredibly valuable. Without my friend's comments, I would probably not have realized how crappy the ending really was. Or if I had, I may not have figured out what I needed to do to fix it. Now I do, and I'm excited to jump back into this book and try to find the right fates for all my characters.