I want to start out by saying I'm sorry I didn't blog yesterday. I got so many ideas for posts from yesterday alone that I couldn't even decide which topic to address, and I was going to decide at the last minute, but then the last minute came and I laid down in my husband's lap at the early, early hour (for me, anyway) of 11pm and fell soundly asleep in the middle of an extremely exciting episode of Dexter (my new favorite television show). So I've decided to hold off on those genius ideas until next week, or possibly later, because I've been gaining new followers every day and I love that, so now I'll tease you with the promise of more excellent content.
Now, onto the post: my workshop critique was Monday. I was very nervous. Although I've sent things out to people to read and critique before, it's never happened in real life, where I knew the people beforehand, then had to spend the rest of the week with them afterward.
For the most part, everything went very well in the oral critique. The worst part was that I didn't edit as well as I should have, so I had some tense issues, which caused my teacher, Stewart O'Nan, author of many books to say, "You change tenses so much it makes us want to stab you." Nice.
Here's the most frustrating thing that happened, and is a great lesson to you writers out there: I wasn't allowed to talk during the critique, which I thought would be fine. Then they started discussing Kaia's reaction to something that happens, saying they didn't think she would get that emotional because she didn't show emotion over an event that happened in the past. At first I was frustrated. I wanted to scream, "But she DOES show emotion to that other event, stupid!! You just didn't read it right!"
But after they spent three minutes discussing it, I realized something: if nine intelligent people (writers and mostly avid readers) who read the MS twice with the intention of critiquing it hadn't picked up on something, then it wasn't that they hadn't read it right - it was that I hadn't written it well enough. Instantly, I was thankful for the rule that I wasn't allowed to speak, because if I had pointed out the line which mentions it, they would have said, "Oh, OK," and moved on, and I wouldn't have fixed my weak writing.
Tonight, I started looking over the mark-ups and written responses. One of them in particular really stood out to me, because the critiquer literally rewrote a lot of the MS. I'm not talking a suggestion here or there - I mean crossed out half of the page and rewrote it using totally new words and descriptions. Yikes. I always thought that was stepping on the writer's toes a bit. Granted, this particular writer is very good with language. Still, if I think a paragraph or sentence needs work, I'll write something like, "Needs work" or "passive" or "not enough detail." I won't insert detail or rewrite the thing. I do suggest lines occassionally, but I thought this was a lot. Am I wrong to think that? Do most people rewrite a MS they get? (that wasn't my experience with anyone else).
Again, though, I saw a general fondness for my plot, with a few notes on holes (which can easily be patched). Two or three people said I still needed to clean up my writing, and that's fine; I know I'm learning, and that's why I picked this conference. It is great for people who really want to focus on craft. I honestly feel like I can learn to be a better writer, but I can't learn to have a great plot, so I'm very excited about this.
There were a lot of notes on how much they loved my opening, but I'm also thinking I might need to change it based on some other notes I got. I'll still keep the opening line in there, just move it a little later. It's such a great line, and it sets the novel up excellently, but I'm not sure it's perfect anymore. And the opening needs to be perfect.
This whole process was enlightening, though. I'd always heard writers talk about "killing your darlings," but I hadn't yet experienced that. Not that I thought I was so wonderful, but just that I hadn't found anything that I LOVED that I needed to kill. But it's definitely coming now, so I'm starting to get sad. I'll just file it away, though, and remember that it's not dead; it's just sleeping.