I apologize once again for the lack of activity on this blog. It’s not that I’m losing interest or running out of things to say, but I’ve hit a sticking point in my story (the same one I mentioned a couple of weeks ago) and I’m loathe to spend time here until that issue is resolved. However, the fact that I’m posting today is a good sign. I think (fingers crossed) I’ve decided how the scene should resolve itself and how the MC is going to get there. I may turn out to be wrong—it won’t be the first time—but I’m staying hopeful.
We all know how important it is to have other eyes on our work, especially those of us who are still working on our first book. We often have no idea how bad our writing is at the beginning—what our weaknesses are, what’s missing in our stories, cringe-worthy dialogue, etc. Even after we have a few stories under our belt, we still need that vital feedback because we’re often blind to our own problems.
Basically, we don’t know what we don’t know.
Last week, at one of my critique group meetings, the nominal head of the group spoke to one of our newer members about their latest submission. She complimented the writer for already being at a place on her writing journey where her words were in reasonable shape. There were still a few problems, but as the leader pointed out, new writers often have so many problems with their writing that it’s hard for the critiquers to know what to say or where to begin, and this writer was definitely past that stage.
All well and good, but as the leader was saying all this, she kept glancing back at me, as if expecting me to confirm this or something. Finally, after about the fourth look, I finally asked her why she kept looking at me, and after she hemmed and hawed for a while without actually answering, I finally realized she had been talking about me.
I’ll admit I was stunned. I’ve been getting good reviews on my submissions over the past twelve months and this very same leader had publically announced (more than once) that my writing had grown immensely over the past year or so, and how much she enjoyed reading my submissions. So all is good now, but apparently, back when I joined the group three years ago, my writing was pretty bad. Bad as in “we don’t have enough time to tell you everything that’s wrong, but here’s a partial list of where you might want to start.”
I went back and looked up some of my earliest submissions to the group, and yeah, there were some glaring problems that would have been hard to critique. Nothing technically wrong, the grammar and punctuation were fine and the sentences made sense, but my submissions were full of sentences that didn’t quite fit together. There was no glue to bind them together into a coherent whole; no mortar to smooth out the bumps and potholes. In other words, it was kind of hard to figure out where my story was going. But somehow, the advice my crit partners gave me at the time pointed me in the right direction and as a result, I’m a much better writer today.
So the next time I’m asked to look over a submission that turns out to be a mess, I’ll think back to when I first began many years ago and remember that we were all newbies once. When we didn’t know what we didn’t know.
P.S. Actually, if I had known what I didn’t know back then, I probably would have given up writing right then and there. Ignorance does have its advantages.