Thursday, August 5, 2010

Death of a Delusion

Once upon a time, I wrote a story. This precious story was my pride and joy. I had done it. I had completed a novel. But where to go from there?

I reclined on the couch with my laptop on the cushion beside me one last summer day. If I wanted to get serious about writing, I needed to figure out a plan of action. That day, I stumbled across, and—after creating an account—I stumbled upon The Novel Workshop. Well, surely they could help direct my path.

As soon as the application went through, I joined the YA genre workshop. Score! I was gonna be the next Lois Duncan or R.L. Stine or…well, some other popular YA author when I was a teen. I just needed some feedback first.

Ask and ye shall receive.

In my na├»ve delusion, I had no real clue what it meant to write a novel. Yes, I had done what many have not—completed the first draft of a novel. But that was only the beginning. I wrote that draft with little to no knowledge of the craft. I’d written it out of pure enjoyment.

Reality hit like a ton of bricks.

In The Novel Workshop, we post our chapters for review by our peers, and everyone has to post at least one review per week. Being the newbie on the block, several people took a crack at my first chapter—and crushed my delusion with a sledgehammer.

All of the sudden there were invitations to Adverb Anonymous, lectures on show vs. tell, terrified screams at narrative summary, and a search and destroy for dialogue tags (esp the ones that went beyond plain, old “said”).

I think my jaw stayed in the dropped position for an entire week. What did they mean by all that stuff? Huh? What was wrong with the way I wrote? On the plus side, they all thought I did a great job of creating realistic characters and that the overall plotline had a lot of potential.

At least they were kind enough to find something positive to say after shredding the very skin from my body and leaving me to bleed on the floor.

Of course, with each shredding, new tougher skin grows back. And with each review, a little more knowledge was garnered and stored for future application.

That’s how we all learn. None of us were born great writers. We had to learn the ropes, just like in any other art form. There are rules and guidelines, expectations that we were unaware of at the time. We just wanted to write.

This experience teaches us one important fact—a writer must always be teachable. Times change, rules change—life is always changing. So is the publishing business. The elegant, flowery writing styles of the classics rarely work in today’s society that demands instant gratification. Subjects that were taboo even ten years ago are surfacing across the board.

And thus, the writer is an ever-growing, ever-changing creature.


  1. I remember those first days in novel review group - mine was in the fantasy forum, but it didn't hurt any less. (Possibly more, they're kinder in YA ;-)).

    You raise so many good points here - how literature is a constantly changing beast, how important improving your skill and talent are, and how critical advanced readers are. The question I as you is - are you still working on that first novel, or did you shelve it as practice?

  2. I did shelve the novel as practice, but not because I was overwhelmed by all the editing and rewriting it would need. I put it aside b/c I decided to go a different route in my writing.

    The novel was mainstream YA, but now I write Christian supernatural suspense aimed toward adults in their 20s and 30s.

  3. lol, yep. My first several real shreddings were in person, in college classes. In one college class particularly I was convinced that I was at the bottom of the pecking order. Yep, you really think that you did a decent job and they just slaughter it. The college poetry class was the same too. It's probably a good thing that those college classes refused to look at novels - let alone fantasy. Though frustrating, it was a great mercy. I was tossing out short stuff with less of my own personal blood. ... no wonder I hate short stories and am convinced I suck at them, lol.

    Good post. And I think your current writing shows for the pains. I look forward to purchasing one of your books, so put my name on your e-mail list!

  4. I can totally relate with that, Ralene. I knew my novel needed "some" work to be publishable, but I never expected it to need "that much" work. LOL Luckily, our forum members are very encouraging and helpful when they shred your chapters to pieces. ;)


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