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Cathy: writerly crisis of faith and confirmation of all my fears

This entry is a combination of a couple of recent posts on my personal blog.

on Monday, I wrote:

writerly crisis of faith
Almost two weeks ago, I gave the first 33 pages of my baby, er, children’s novel manuscript to my critique group. We meet tomorrow. During school vacation. At my house. With my gang of mayhem and two other kids added to the mix. And the one person I know outside the group will not be there, so she returned my pages with her comments yesterday.

I’ve done a lot of work on those first 30 pages in the past 6ish years since I started writing this little tale. They are the initial inspiration, and what I always felt really worked about the book. The changes I had made were on the small side, grammar, tense, slight rearranging of things. Now I feel like I have to move a thought bubble that wraps the first third of the novel very nicely and turn into a scene that will be the new opening of the book. Not that that was her exact suggestion, but that’s where my mind took it.

But I love my opening! There’s a great slow build to what happened to make this kid so upset in the opening lines.

I have had other readers who really loved the opening. I have four more readers to hear from tomorrow.

How can my heart be simultaneously in my throat and in the bottom of my gut at the same time? I feel like I have a big envelope to open, and it either has very very good news, or absolutely horrid news to bear. Quite possibly both. And once I open it, I will have to cut my big ball of dough in half, knead it, fold it over and over again into itself, pound on it, and hopefully, a beautiful loaf will emerge from the oven.

I know, mixed metaphor central, but give me a break!

Anticipation is a killer.

On Tuesday, came:

confirmation of all my fears

Great writers’ group this morning — afternoon. We wrote, I was interrupted by kids a variety of ways (school vacation and toddler), and then we got hungry, ate lunch and discussed the first third of my novel, as I mentioned yesterday.

They confirmed all of my misgivings about the manuscript’s current state, and now, boy do I have a lot of work to do. But it’s good, not the dread that my anticipation was giving me.

I kind of wish I was done already…but I guess this is what they mean about 2nd draft work. It’s not just about picking through the first draft and the million and a half edits already done, but about the complete restructuring of the storytelling… focus description into action, rearrange parts, rethink what is important about characters and how they serve the story, get rid of unnecessary adverbs…you know, the big stuff.

So big stuff, here I come. Right after this diaper change….

Psst! And guess what else?  They liked it, too!

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. alexsondra #

    thanks for sharing this. It validates all my inner anxieties about sharing.
    Now I can’t wait to read your book. You’ve successfully created a sort of pre-marketing anticipation. Good for you.

    April 16, 2010
  2. wow, thanks, alexsondra!

    April 16, 2010
  3. Jen #

    oh — this made me so nostalgic for those days when i was still an active member of a writing group! the anxiety, the anxiety. glad they liked it. have fun with the dough, now! 🙂

    April 16, 2010
  4. jen, you should start one! i’m sure you’d have an easy gathering from your new collegiate residence!

    April 16, 2010
  5. Jen #

    Cathy, if I was writing regularly (or really, if I was writing at all other than blogging) I absolutely would! I could even join again with the one I used to go to — they are still going strong and I remain friends with some of the members to this day, even though it’s been about 5 years since I last made a meeting (And my son just turned 5… no that isn’t coincidence!)

    But I feel right now as though my muse is napping. Starting a critique group would definitely wake her up. But if I roused her before she was fully rested, it would get pretty ugly b/c I am not really at a point where I can give her what she would demand. I’d rather wait until I feel her waking up on her own, and then take it from there.

    April 16, 2010
  6. ah, yers, good to trust your instincts on that matter. let her rest.

    April 16, 2010
  7. this whole writers group concept intriques me. i know it’s not a new thing, but it’s just not something i’ve ever been involved in. maybe because i’m not a fiction writer? or really not even a “writer” in that sense of writing? who knows. does sound fun though. maybe that’s what i do with my blog when i share projects. glad they liked it cath! and i agree with alesondra on the early marketing!

    April 16, 2010
  8. kelly, in a way, i think that’s also what you are doing with your retreats!

    many years ago i had a great group of creative women who got together once a month and we went late into the night sharing songs, poems, stories, novels, visual arts, etc, you name it, if it was creative, it was shared.

    kinda like what we do here. 😉

    April 16, 2010
  9. cathy – a diaper change is a brilliant way to put it! i’m so stuck on that phrase that i can barely part with it. anyway, i write in much smaller chunks of verse and prose, so i don’t know the emotional intensity that must go into developing a manuscript. but i have to imagine that the first phase of development is challenging because you’re creating from scratch, but also a very freeing process because you can channel that raw, pure, free flowing creativity. then the subsequent phases must be tough because you need to approach that manuscript with a managed creativity – to put the critiquing goggles, think about how it will be perceived and interpreted by others, and be willing to decide where you will and where you won’t be willing to change. and then – gah – opening it to the greater world. i think this takes herculean heaps of courage and you’ve handled the feedback very gracefully. i hope we’ll have the chance to read it sometime!

    April 16, 2010
  10. thank you, aimee, and you hit the nail on the head! that diaper change was well over a week ago, and while i have been thinking about the big tectonic plate shifting edits i need to do, i gardened and cared for sick kids instead….

    April 16, 2010
  11. I am so glad that you got positve affirmation! As I was reading your post, my heart was in my throat. Blog writing is pretty quick and dirty. Writing a book however and THEN having to move and shift and rethink? Well, lets just say I leave that to the braver souls…

    April 17, 2010
  12. I’m impressed that you are able to maintain the commitment to a writers’ group, which of course requires output! As difficult as that is, it’s one of the “secrets” that works for overbooked creative souls: establish external deadlines. Somehow, knowing that your group is meeting again in two weeks and you need to have something in hand for your meeting — something that doesn’t make you cringe — forces your creativity up to the top of the to-do list. Which is where it belongs, at least on occasion.

    Good for you, Cathy!

    April 17, 2010
  13. thanks, ladies, i really appreciate what you both said. it does take a monumental effort with youngins around to concentrate for the big edits, and i am grateful to have met this writing group, especially since they are all children’s authors, and a couple are actually well-published! they’ve been a great help as this is my first committed foray into a longer work.

    April 17, 2010

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