Back to Square One

on Mar 18, 2012 by Michael Rupured

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.

Damn.

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

3 Comments

  1. CathyB says:

    It will happen. Can’t wait!! I still haven’t finished reading what you sent me. Since you first sent it to me, you have written often about your revisions. I would be of no help to you with editing/suggestions, so I’m just going to do the lazy thing and wait for the final product.

    Well, not that I’m being lazy. There is just no time. No time to read your work. No time to read a book already published by another friend. (I have it downloaded to the free version of Kindle, just no time to read it.)

    And certainly no time to work on my own book. I haven’t touched it in I can’t even tell you how long. The story is written in my head. It’s just getting the words on “paper” that’s the problem.

    You get extra points for your diligence. I know it will be well worth all the heart and soul you’ve poured into it. I’ll be at your book signing, for sure. And once I have something that I can hold in my hand (translated – take to the bathroom, leave in my car for those times I have to wait, or when I have 5-10 minutes to spare), then I will devour it from cover to cover. I just know it.

    I have a Nook (1st generation) that Whitney gave me for Christmas, but the dang thing takes so long to power up and load my book that I’m usually already out of time before it’s ever ready for me to begin reading. That’s kind of frustrating for me, as my “reading time” is seriously just a few minutes here and there. At any rate… I’m patiently waiting for Glass Houses to come to a bookstore near me!

    Keep the faith!! It will happen!!
    CathyB

    • Thanks Cathy! I have a Kindle that I rarely use. I like it, just don’t have that much time to read. Now audiobooks are a different story, especially now that I prefer listening to one when I’m running!

  2. Luana says:

    Strange enough, I posted today about why I’ll never join a critique group. It seems that WordPress is trying to change my mind about it! 🙂

    Good luck with your book!