Show and Tell – My First Professional Critique

There’s this false sense of security that lulls a would-be writer when she posts her work on a site like Wattpad and read all the praise pouring in.  One writer friend told me that it was “instant gratification” to read all those comments as soon as you click ‘Publish’ and that it was addicting. It makes you want to keep on writing not really for the sake of writing to perfect your craft, but to keep hearing that praise pouring in. 

Problem is – the praise isn’t from your peers, fellow writers or editors who know the essentials of a good story. 

And so after almost 4 months of writing and now currently rewriting my novel, I decided to send the first 2500 words to an editor and author – just me being the type of girl who ‘runs with scissors and never thinks before she says something.’  The woman’s well-respected in the business and people actually were proud to have “bricks flung” at them (in the form of critiques, of course) and admitted that while the critique was harsh and took months to receive, it was what their novels really needed.  No false sense of security there.

I didn’t know what to expect really.  What I did know, the moment I clicked Send, was that my first chapter was the weakest of all 46 chapters in the 140K word novel.  But maybe I needed the validation. Maybe I needed a brick or two flung at me after all the praise I’d been hearing from readers via comments and private messages.  Or maybe I just needed a professional editor to look at it and tell me it was crap so I’d know what to do to make it not so much like crap.

Three hours later, I got my reply.  As I read her email, she first told me that she wasn’t flinging bricks at me – yet.  She also told me what I already knew about that first chapter.

Unfortunately I had mis-identified the genre I was writing by putting down ROMANCE instead of WOMEN’S LIT.  So her critique had more to do with the romance genre, one of which included the advice to read a 100 books for every one book I wanted to write, or read a How To Write a Romance Novel type of book – that is, IF I was writing a romance.

“If this is “women’s fiction” rather than “romance” … then this is fine, but it’s still riddled with the telling, not showing problems.

“Decide if your book is a romance or women’s fiction, then start it at the latest point possible when something more interesting is going on for the [protagonist] than being in the throes of grief for her friend.  I question even using that as a plot device.”

This critique was definitely what I needed to know just how weak my first chapter was.  It also told me that I had a long way to go.  I have heard of people writing novels in 3 to 4 months, then have it published by the 5th month.  Is it polished?  I don’t know, though sometimes I buy then and wonder I wasted my money.  But I shouldn’t be worrying about those authors, that they’re published and I’m not.  I should worry about me, and the type of work I want to produce. 

I need to move that story forward, find my voice in women’s lit (the genre I prefer most to read) and keep on editing till I know that that first chapter is the best I can send out.  Then, and only then – after she asks me to send the full manuscript – do  I wait for the bricks to be flung my way…

I Thought It Was About The Hobbit

When was the last time a movie, a book, or a television show left you cold despite all your friends (and/or all the critics) raving about it? What was it that made you go against the critical consensus?

The source material for the 9-hour trilogy
The source material for the 9-hour trilogy

When Peter Jackson’s first of three installments of a children’s book was released almost two years ago, I figured I’d check it out and see what he’d done to further expound on the story of Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit from the Shire who gets caught up in the drama of Middle Earth. 

An Unexpected Journey charmed me from the moment I watched it in the theater in 48 frames per second.  I wanted to meet Bilbo, and see how PJ filmed the dwarves and shrunk them.  I wanted to see how he depicted Thorin Oakenshield, the grumpy old would-be king of the mountain.  I had to admit – having read the book years ago and listened to the audiobook as well – I liked it. 

And so for the second of those three installments of a children’s book, I went to see it on opening day.  When Desolation of Smaug suddenly faded into black, there was no applause in the theater. Instead, the guy next to me and most everyone else in the theater, got up and left even before the credits started rolling.  Only the guy next to me said, “That’s it?  That’s baloney! Peter Jackson’s not getting any more of my money for the third movie. I’m waiting till it ends up on Netflix.”

I remember chuckling then, but I had to agree with him though.  And not that it would matter to him one iota, but Peter Jackson is not having any more of my money either. For a movie that’s supposed to be about the journey of a hobbit, I can barely spot the hobbit.  Instead, for Desolation of Smaug, we were introduced to super wonder elves and Sauron-before-he-was-Sauron of Lord of the Rings.

But everyone I know loves it though, even my real life friends, most of whom have never read J.R.R. Tolkien’s works.  I just hope that they’ve read the original material, which was a children’s book and therefore didn’t have depictions of war in it.  But people who’ll flock in the theaters for There and Back Again Battle of the Five Armies won’t know that at all. 

So I won’t be watching the third film.  Instead, I’m going back to the book and hope that people who’ve never heard of Tolkien before, pick up the book first – especially The Hobbit.  Because if they see the trilogy first, then the book to them will be boring. 

And that would be – and it already is – a travesty.

 

To Weave

You just inherited a dilapidated, crumbling-down grand mansion in the countryside. Assuming money is no issue, what do you do with it?

nXvagGK

Fix it, paint it, then call it my home
this is the place I’ll call my own
in the countryside where the
mornings, bliss; dreams bestowed
by sweet Seshat’s kiss,
to write, to read,
so many
tales to
weave.

Daily Prompt

Boarding Pass

20140621-161025-58225664.jpg

Today I found your boarding pass tucked in an old book
Along with a receipt that told me how much you paid
And as you smile at me and give me that look
I remember it rained that morning, I remember the love we made

I remember how I wished you wouldn’t leave
I still remember every promise that you said
You told me not to cry and instead to believe
That tomorrow you’d be back again, warm in my bed

Fifteen years ago now since you made that promise
It’s been fifteen years since you returned
Every day since then you’ve been my solace
Every moment with you is a moment earned

For sometimes we have to fight for what we want
We have to take a stand no matter how afraid we feel
Fifteen years ago today, the memories still taunt
Fifteen years ago, we found the strength to heal

So I found your boarding pass tucked in a book today
It’s a reminder of a time so long ago
When we almost let our hurt take full sway
Before we hung on, held on, then let go.

Muse

It’s a love affair that’s never ended
it’s been going on for far too long
something many people will never understand
always believing that something’s wrong
with me falling in love
with people I barely know,
just words on a page come to life,
though they often come
and then they go
though some of them stay for far longer
than even I anticipate
some of them live ever on
long after their sad fate
some of them make me smile
and some of them leave me sad,
some of them make me so angry
so good at being bad
And then there are those, a chosen few
who live on in my dreams
they set free the stories hiding inside my head
creeping, slipping between the seams
they keep me appearing normal
to someone who will never understand
keeps me ever sane –
keeps me from being damned