Robin’s been sick and crib-bound this week, and for the last few days, I’ve been… working. That feels strange to say, and I’m not sure it’s connected to Robin’s illness. I hope not!
By ‘working’, I mean: engaged in writing, including the writing of fiction and the writing of critiques for other aspiring novelists. I’ve been working a lot.
I redrafted the first chapter of my novel, and assigned it a shiny new name. No longer is it ‘Under Bridges’. Instead, it’s ‘Sparksister’, which is also not really a name I like but at least it’s more evocative for me.
I managed to write this first chapter out because my little intermittent writing group that I’ve been absent from for months has decided to start exchanging chapters every week. It used to be every month, which ends up being too long a timeframe for me to work to. A week is just close enough that I have to schedule to it, especially when I also have to write critiques of other people’s chapters.
Extrapolating from how much a couple people’s expectations motivated me, I went ahead and investigated an online writing workshop I’d been planning to join when I had something to get critiqued. And then Kevin pointed me at another one which is comparable and I decided to try them both out for a month and then pick one.
So, right now, I have the first chapter of my novel awaiting critiques in three different circles. I’ve received two already. They were not… encouraging. Both were in response to critiques I’d done, rather than out of any interest in the story itself. Neither liked it very much– one of them absolutely shredded it, rating it 1 of 5 and providing a matching critique.
Now, a logical person might observe that critique circles and workshops aren’t the place to go for cheerleading and handholding– for fond anticipation of the next chapter– that’s what your friends and family are for!
But examination suggests otherwise: people make friends in these places and they’re quite enthusiastic about their friends’ works. It could just be that I suck and their friends are a-mazing, though it’s more likely a matter of taste if it’s something objective. Anyhow, I think I can make friends, too. Haven’t given up on that yet, and my actual critiques on S– have been highly received, so that has potential. I’m trying to accept criticism intelligently.
But this is my blog (is there a recognized acronym for that yet? TIMB? Google doesn’t think so) and so I’m going to be a bit self-indulgent. Whine a little. Cry a little. Please bear with me.
Sometimes I really feel like there’s something wrong with my writing. Something badly wrong, especially with my fiction. It’s bewildering because not only can I not see it myself, my friends and family won’t tell me what it is! All I can really gather from various differing critiques over the years is that whatever it takes to really pull a reader in, I don’t have it. That zing.
And please, friends&family, don’t think I’m pushing away your encouragement over the years. It’s precious and important and useful. I just can’t help wondering what the difference between you and them is.
Actually, quite unexpectedly, this bout of self-indulgence has suggested an answer. While wallowing in the shared complaints of the 2 critiques so far (compilation is really the only way to analyze critiques, I’ve found), yes, ok, the first line apparently doesn’t work, yes, ok, you all hate my word choices (even Kevin said something about word choices) and my newly acquired wordiness and…
you don’t trust that I know what I’m doing. Thus details are described as irrelevant, and mysterious events are rejected as implausible even when the protagonist notes they’re implausible.
What I’m trying to do is lay down a foundation to build on later, and to deal intelligently with observing the remnants of supernatural events. I can imagine how that might come across wrong if I’m just some words on a page– although I don’t have to imagine it because I can read it. I’m not, by the way, trying to reject criticism with claims of ‘you don’t undersstaaand it! iIt’s Not For You!’ Not understanding it is my fault, something I’ll have to work to remedy.
Unfortunately, I’m very afraid the remedy is ‘write a simpler story’. The previous draft included lots of early emphasis about how weird everything was, and that just didn’t work for me.
Of course, another remedy– not one that will work for impressing publishers– is to keep writing chapters and Show Them All. That’s actually what I’m going to do, since I have to finish this novel…