Back to Square One
My affection for the people in my writer’s group has come up here several times before. We’re a diverse group with different backgrounds, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. Together we’re a tough bunch of well-informed critics.
Besides the formal submission process and the critiques provided at our regular meetings, there’s also a lot of informal sharing. Sometimes requests go out to the entire group. But mostly it’s one of us asking two or three others for feedback about a new section, an old section that’s been revised, or perhaps even about an entire manuscript.
A year ago when I first joined, I sent Glass Houses to the entire group with a request for general feedback. I’ve since learned they thought I had a lot of nerve for asking, especially as a newcomer. It took a while, but once they read the manuscript, they understood my reasoning and offered a lot of great feedback.
The biggest suggestion was to send the 110,000 word manuscript through the group 5,000 words at a time. Excluding any resubmissions, to get through the entire manuscript would require 22 meetings–about a year given our twice-monthly meetings. The idea of delaying publication for a full year didn’t appeal to me in the least. Instead, I hired a freelance editor to work with me on fixing the problems.
A few weeks ago, I sent several members the revised draft with all the changes I made in response to comments from the editor. The editor still had issues with the first third of the manuscript, but hadn’t figured out a way to solve the problems. I made a lot of changes on my own and felt like I’d fixed all the problems and really improved the manuscript.
Last night, one of the members shared her thoughts with me about the first 26 pages of the revised manuscript. Because she joined last summer, she missed out on reading the first draft. So it was all new to her. The bad news is that she listed the same problems I’ve heard all along. In other words, I hadn’t fixed the problems after all.
Except I sorta knew. Yes, the revised draft is an improvement over the first draft. But it’s still not where it needs to be. The good news was her confidence in my ability to fix the problems. Having worked with me on Addicted from start to finish, she has faith in my ability to not only fix the problems, but to end up with a memoir with the potential to become a bestseller.
Last night when we talked, I disagreed with her assessment. She just hadn’t read far enough. Around three o’clock this morning, I realized she was absolutely right. I emailed her first thing this morning to thank her for her honesty, her faith in me, and about my decision.
I’m going to completely rewrite Glass Houses, applying everything I learned from the critiques they provided about Addicted. I’m also going to submit it to the group as I go, 5000 words at a time, and hope to learn still more from the feedback they will provide. If I really want Glass Houses to be the best I can do, working through the group is really the only way forward.
Unlike when I started writing Glass Houses nearly two years ago, now I know what the story is. I’m not going to change the story–just how I write about it. There might even be parts of the original manuscript that will work in the new version…time will tell.
I have no regrets about “wasting” the last year–time I could have been submitting the first draft to the group. I wasn’t ready. I needed to learn a lot–about writing and about the members of the group. A year ago, I didn’t trust them enough to allow them to critique my life story.
Now I do. I welcome the opportunity to learn even more from them than I already have. And when it finally gets published, we’ll have a big old party to celebrate, right here in…
My Glass House