When Great Writing Goes Wrong…

I have a confession to make: I have been avoiding #LoveThyEnemy. And Pleasure’s Payne. And a couple other ones. I haven’t been avoiding them for the usual reasons; I didn’t run into an issue with the manuscript that I can’t write past or am unsure what happens next. The problem is that my writing has been scaring me lately. Why? Because I think it’s…good. 

That may seem a little backwards, but here’s the thing: all the writing advise says that first drafts are bad. The great Ernest Hemingway said that the first draft of anything is crap. Anne Lamott has a whole chapter of her popular fiction writing book Bird by Bird dedicated to crappy first drafts. Some random twitter quote said that a writing who thinks he is writing well is probably writing really badly. The encouragement is always to get whatever crap you can on the page because you can’t fix a blank page, but you can fix a crappy one. But what about a good page?

I’m not saying that every word of #LoveThyEnemy or Pleasure’s Payne is golden. I’m not saying that I have proofread and revised the sections I have written so that they look as good as they do. What I am saying is that maybe, just a little bit, I’ve hit my stride and found my voice with these stories. The thing is, I’ve set the beginnings up well enough that I have to deliver something at the end. The thing is, I can feel great within my reach, and it’s a little scary. Intimidating. All of these great words are clogging up the well. I’m finding new and exciting ways to procrastinate…like writing this post. Bah!

There’s also the possibility that I’m wrong. Every word I’ve written could be drivel. It could be moving in the opposite direction of what everyone in publishing is going in. Or it could be to on trend. Maybe what I have is a steaming pile of crap that needs to be excavated for the evidences that at some point a decent story existed. Maybe I’m just a cockeyed novice with her compass all messed up.

So I called in the big guns. Instead of keeping this project to myself as I have been, I am getting my Beta Reader on the case. Having to turn over my words to her keeps me on track and helps me focus. Next week is my week to share writing with my critique partners, and I’ll send them what I have as well. I entered 10,000 words of #LoveThyEnemy into contest, and plan to enter Pleasure’s Payne into a contest as well. I am putting my work out there for both egregious praise to bolster my self-confidence, constructive criticism to help me fix things that are going wrong, and feedback from contest judges, with the possibility of them garnering an editor or agents attention.

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If I Could Offer One Critique…

GAH!!

Whenever something is that weird mixture of exciting yet scary, you’ll hear me (or, rather, read me) going GAH! So what’s going on that’s exciting/scary at the moment? I am putting a couple chapters of my baby, Delivering Justice, out there for feedback. GAH!

I’ve polished the first chapter to a spit free shine, and now I’m working on the second chapter. I sent the first chapter to a woman who is in a writing group that I’m a part of on Facebook. She also participated in So You Think You Can Write, and her entry received an R&R (revise and resubmit letter), which means Harlequin is interested in her work. We are swapping first chapters. I just pressed send on my chapter.

Within the larger writing group of So You Think You Can Write participants, we were broken into smaller critique groups. The leader of my critique group of three just sent out an email that we will be swapping about two chapters a week starting today. GAH!

This is usually the part where I crack up, if I haven’t already. Writing is hard enough. Revision drives me up a wall. Having someone read my work always knots my stomach. But having someone critique my writing? GAH!!

I know that this is an important step in my journey for two reasons:

1) sharing my work with someone always makes it better. When I took my words to my coworker each day, it made me aware of the quality of what I was writing. This wasn’t just a book for me to write and put in a drawer; it was a guarantee that someone would read it, so it needed to be good. Aside from this, every time I have had a writing workshop class with critique, the revision of the assignment has been so much better than the original. No matter how well I write, I can’t see my every weakness and fill in all the holes.

2) It forces me to slow down and do this write. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know my first inclination is to hit send as soon as possible. I just want to get it out of my hands and have my part over with. But you only get one chance to make a first impression. I want the editor’s first impression of my work to be amazing. Amazing takes some time. It means not pantsing and leaving time for revisions. It means actually doing revisions. It means seeking other’s opinions on how to make the writing stronger and getting comfortable with feedback. GAH!

So I am having a very difficult time deciding if I’m more excited or scared by having pressed send once and having to do so again before this day is over. Is the story  the best I can make it? Should I have waited? Are these the right people to critique my writing? Is this a step closer to publication? I can’t allow myself to obsess over all of the anxiety involved in this. I must celebrate the victory I’ve just achieved–I sent a chapter of my story out for someone’s opinion on it! Not on the spur of the moment and without revision like with SYTYCW, but something I had the opportunity to polish. That’s something I can be proud of, no matter what happens next.

Do you have a critique partner/group? How do you handle feedback on your writing?

I’m Just a Bachelor(ette), Looking for a Partner…

I was just reading a blog post that wanted to trackback to my blog when a thought hit me like a bolt from the blue: I don’t have a writing partner.

OK, so it didn’t hit me like a bolt from the blue. I’ve been aware of my lack of a writing buddy for a very long time now. I’ve made some progress on this deficiency. Through blogging (both here and on my other blogs), I’ve met many wonderful writers and friends. The thing is, though, I don’t have anyone to critique my writing, to give me some outside perspective on it.

I’ve asked for your thoughts here (on the little snippets on my Untitled page), and I even joined a NaNoWriYear challenge with Cordelia over on Cordelia Calls It Quits, but I’m no closer to finding my writing soulmate. I haven’t found the fellow writer who I can trust not to steal my work, to tell me honestly what they think of my writing, to support me when I think I’m going crazy and to encourage me when I feel like being published is never going to happen. I haven’t found anyone who likes the genres that I write in and is willing to share as well as critique.  I haven’t found my writing accountability partner.

For now, the best writing buddy I have is this blog. Having to write down my progress is really helping me to keep working on my Camp NaNoWriMo novel, even if I don’t meet the daily word count goals (which reminds me, I actually have to type up what I have so I can get my count validated). In case you were wondering, I am still chugging along on the challenge, still working hard to finally get this story down. Other stories keep trying to intrude, but I’m remaining focused. When I realize I needed to say something earlier for continuity, or find a spot on want to expand on later, I write it down in the margins near where it would go and I keep going. I’m not allowing myself to be deterred. I don’t know if I’ll have 50,000 words at the end of the month, but I’ll have far more than the dismal 10,000 I managed in November.

Anyway, if you want to get to know me better as a potential writing buddy, have some advice about finding a good writing buddy, or you just want to commiserate with me on our lack of writing buddies, feel free to comment or email me at 2blu2btru4u@gmail.com.