WHAT I LEARNED WHILE WRITING A BOOK
(or: what I won’t do next time)
I will not have a lone ranger mentality
Past experience of sharing my writing during the Masters in Creative Writing confused me. There were always many suggestions for alterations, additions, omissions, and explanations – that was, after all, the purpose of the weekly group meeting- and being a teachable and conscientious soul I took every suggestion on board. The result was two-fold: I wrote endless back story to accommodate their suggestions, ended up with a cast of thousands with much telling-not-showing, and ruined what had been a good plot; and I lost all confidence in the story and my ability to write it. They were all bright young things and I admired their writing. Of course they would know more than I did!
It took several years to undo the damage and get back to writing. And several more before I enjoyed and appreciated the value of a writing group. Even so, I was stingy with how much I shared with others as I wrote Cambodian Harvest. I’m sure it would have been a better book for more input, and increased my satisfaction in the process of writing it.
So, with my next book I will seek out a range of reader-mentors who will help me to sift chaff from wheat early in the process and help me kill off mere ideas rather than the darlings I have birthed and nurtured to adulthood! These readers can’t be my husband or best friend who would fondly tolerate even my sloppiest lines.
My mentor-readers will also be drawn from a range of different skills and interests. I need people who will tell me what does and doesn’t add to the flow of the story, to help me refine and achieve what I always had in mind. And while I may not need a lot of help with spelling and punctuation I do need someone who will pull me into line regarding the use of intensifiers – those pesky adverbs and adjectives – and rein me in on those long descriptive passages I love. Oh, and someone to keep an eye on formatting!
There was one other reason for not having the number of readers I needed. I was scared of giving away all the ‘goodies’ and there’d be no one left to buy the book when it was finished. Now that’s negativism of the worst order!