Epiphany at WRITING for CHARITY

Found on Flickr

When August 21st rolled around, and Writing for Charity (WFC) along with it, I had completed 13 pages of my work in progress (wip). I was EXTREMELY anxious to share my first page (cuz that’s all you are allowed to share at this event) as I was experimenting with a multi-writing-genre format.

The protocol for most writing groups requires that someone OTHER than the author reads the draft. The writer CANNOT say ANYTHING. This is difficult for me, and I slipped when my reader Ann Dee Ellis couldn’t figure out a weird contraction.

“Ah, ah, ah, Renae,” she said. “You need to listen to the way readers might say this word.”

Of course she is right, and such a read-through revealed several issues that I immediately recognized. I started to point them out, and Ann Dee stopped me again as I needed to see if our group members identified the same problems FIRST. And they did.

I had hoped my writing experiment wouldn’t appear gimmicky, and that it would introduce readers to a WHAM-BAM first line; SUPER strong voice; and an INTRIGUING plot set-up.

If those areas were graded, I’d say I received a D, B, and D. And this is why.

  • The first line introduces 2 pieces of the plot that I wanted to emphasize, BUT one part overshadowed the other to the point that my readers didn’t even notice the second detail. And that one was THE most important! This problem deflated both the WHAM and the BAM.
  • While the first page does a decent job of creating a YA voice, the experimental format doesn’t help readers get a real feel for the character’s voice. THIS is critical. Without it, we don’t understand enough about the MC to decide whether or not we like him/her, and if we don’t like that him or if we aren’t intrigued with her, why read on? (I just talked myself into reducing the “B” to a “C”.)
  • While I think I have an intriguing plot idea, I failed to clearly introduce it. My peer readers had to go back and re-read the first part to figure out what had just happened. (NOT a good thing.)

So with those flaws in mind, my group discussed what I could do to “fix” the problems. Ann Dee led the discussion, and she helped me understand the limitations of the format, and she also threw out an idea that could improve the ALL-IMPORTANT first line.

Other group members asked good questions that helped me recognize additional holes.  And so, I went away with concrete ideas that should strengthen that first page and, hopefully, the rest of the manuscript.

The question I asked myself was this: Shall I revise OR start over? I remembered that Carol Lynch Williams challenged followers of Throwing Up Words to toss out the first 5 pages and reCREATE them – NOT reWRITE them. I believe recreation means I come at the story in a different way; and while I like the multi-writing-genre idea, I think I need to scale it back some. BUT I will NOT even look at those first 5 pages when I reWRITE/CREATE them!!!

The point is I walked away from the workshop experience rejuvenated because I remembered this quotation from Writing Simplified:

Writing alone isn’t enough to help you improve; you need FEEDBACK.

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After reading this, you’ll think I’m bi-polar.

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talkin’ to
Concentration slip away
Cause your baby is so far away.
Well, there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love
Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with

~ Stephen Stills, 1970

I am clueless as to what the first two lines of the chorus means, but “a rose in a fisted glove” and “an eagle [flying] with a dove” are pretty cool images. If I understood the symbolism, I could probably tie them into this post, but since I don’t, I’m going with “… if you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one your with.”

Naturally, I’m NOT writing about a former boyfriend or a clandestine lover – I’m a happily married blogger – but I am thinking how this applies to my writing doldrums of the past few weeks: To abandon a potentially great idea because it is NOT really I’m not REALLY into it. When I ventured to write up a character bio, as I committed to do, and found I couldn’t even complete that, I decided it was time to admit momentary defeat and hang with the NEW idea “on the block.” But what exactly was that?

I know all this sounds too familiar, BUT I promise this ends on a more positive note. For awhile now, I’ve toyed with an idea that I liked but couldn’t solidify, and then …  (Is the anticipation significantly building?) …

I watched NEW MOON!!!

For the first time.

Do NOT – I repeat – do NOT panic. I have NO intention of whipping out yet another vampire novel, but watching 2 freaking MISERABLE characters MOPE over each other added substance to my nebulous idea. And I decided I LOVED it. (The IDEA, not New Moon.)

Because this story is lighter than Not That Way, the working title of the “other” novel-in-the-making, I’ve been able to “throw up words.” Something I wanted and needed to do but couldn’t because the subject of Not That Way was SO heavy, and the character-arc SO wide that INTENSE thinking prohibited puking on paper.

This is a truly lame comparison, but I felt like I was TRYING to love deep and dark Edward, but I’m NOT obsessed and depressed Bella! I was forcing a relationship that wasn’t there. NOT to say it will always be that way, but for right now, I’ve ditched the … . Well, you know what I’m sayin’.

The point is that for a first-time novelist, I need (I was tempted to write “Jacob” but controlled that urge) something different. I’m not sure of all the reasons why, but this new thing feels right.