The critiques were pretty painless last night. I made a “joke” about being nervous to our leader and so she “let me off the hook” early by making me first. I’m actually grateful for that. I was able to get it out of the way and relax about it the rest of the night.
I wasn’t bothered by any of what they said, in fact I anticipated some of it. There are some areas in The Teacher that are entirely too detailed and serve no purpose for the story. What I now have to decide is whether to cut them down, or to make them serve a purpose. While I personally kind of like some of the details, there was a consensus among the group that a few specific areas needed to be “condensed” and what the leader told us the first night was, “take what you want and ignore what you don’t, but if there’s some consistency in a particular area, you should probably revisit it,” so I guess I will.
A lot of the other comments were about wanting to know more about certain things that are actually already addressed in other areas of the book. That’s one of the downfalls in the way this works. I get to submit 25 double spaced pages, three separate times. They do not have to be the same pages, so I can have up to 75 pages critiqued. But the first draft of The Teacher is 418 pages. You can’t expect to know everything about the story and the characters and their backgrounds in 25 or even 75 pages of a 400 page novel.
So all in all, I feel pretty good about the feedback. I agree with a lot of the comments that require changes and feel good about what I covered in other places that they asked for. While I may not be as close to Book-Deal ready as I had thought/hoped, I do feel good about what I’ve done and what I can do to improve it.
Let it be known that no matter what time this is posted, I am writing it “today”. I have managed a perfect record of posting every day so far this year, and I would hate to mess that up, but today has been rather hectic and troublesome and there simply wasn’t time to write before now.
And even now… I’m sitting in my car outside a very nice house in San Francisco, waiting for the commencement of my second week of the Writing Workshop I mentioned that I would be participating in. I haven’t really had a chance to talk about it before now and I don’t have time now to do it justice, but it has been interesting (and I’ve barely gotten started.)
The time I would normally have spent writing this afternoon, was instead spent critiquing other people’s writing – something I find I’m a lot less comfortable with than I had imagined I would be. It’s difficult to critique the work of complete strangers you will, nonetheless, be looking in the eye for weeks to come.
It was especially difficult because I didn’t particularly enjoy much of what I read, which is not to say it wasn’t good, just not my speed. And so, I needed to critique the work without being too judgmental, or insulting, which wasn’t really so difficult, but more than that, I wanted to be constructively critical, but also encouraging.
I’ve discovered that, while I’ve come a long way, personally, I’m still an inherently negative person and it’s kind of difficult to find positive things to say when I don’t really feel them. I managed to get them done though. And since it’s the first week of handing back critiques, we’ll see how it goes and how I did in comparison to everyone else… If comparing is even in order. It may not be.
I did learn one thing, however. I should NEVER put this off to the last day, ever again!
So, I finished the first draft of my novel on the day after Thanksgiving. Many, MANY moons ago, I printed out a hard copy of what I had already done (less than half the finished work) and started editing those pages. I got through ten chapters before I put that down and didn’t look at it again. Eventually, I went back to writing with a renewed vigor and determination (and another round of NaNoWriMo to motivate me.) Since I finished the first draft I decided to go back through those old edits and update the soft copy before I did anything else. Interestingly, many of those edits had already been done in the soft copy, which tells me, not only that I did them during some other burst of editing, but also that I was on the right track since I thought the same thing more than once.
I finished that last week.
Today, I have before me a completed, fully printed, hard copy of the book; 416 pages, 208 sheets of paper. And you know what? For the first time, it looks real. All double spaced and Times New Roman-y, just the way an agent/editor/publisher wants it. It feels kinda strange… Good! But strange…
My next step is to go through the hard copy, with a red pen, and hopefully a clear, unbiased mind and edit it again. I know there are sections that need work. I know that there will be rewrites to be made, but I’m pretty excited about this process all the same.
I’m officially signed up to participate in a writers workshop, starting in February. There will be real, published, accomplished authors in this group. To say that I feel out of my depth and a bit self-conscious would be an understatement. But the leader of the workshop, a published author herself, has already given me very positive feedback on the few pages I sent her last week and I can’t wait to hear more (even if some of it is constructive criticism and not accolades… accolades would be nicer though…) 😉