Monday, April 12, 2010

Tough Love

Maureen said something last night at our critique group meeting that rang totally true for me: "I always think what I write is great until someone tells me it's not." Sometimes I have an idea that something might not be working, but usually, I think what I've got on the page, or in my head, is pretty great.

On Saturday we went to the Donald Maass workshop at Toronto Romance Writers. And he said, that feeling resistance to changing our work is totally natural and normal and that we need to pay attention to is, because where we feel the most resistance is where we need to make the most change.

I can't say that I agree with that for myself a 100% of the time, but when I do agree with it, I agree with it 100%.

I'm working on a series of books and at the Saturday workshop I did a lot of great work on the first book, but those decisions impacted the second book and in regards to plot and character for the second book - I had nothing, so I really wanted to get it figured out so I wouldn't be half way through it and realize that the things I put into effect in the first book had totally screwed me.

So, my brilliant critique group started throwing around ideas. I love brainstorming. I adore it. And my ideas last night were weak, and tired and mostly non-existent. I had just kept circling the same tired plot points. And my lovely little critique group - and I have to say Sinead was particularly brilliant - kept saying; nope. Nope. Not big enough. Old-fashioned. What's in it for him? What happens to her? What's the worst thing that can happen to her? What does he really want? Until finally, the story broke wide open and it was fresh and exciting and new. Scenes arrived in my head. Characters created a second and third dimensions. Subplots got juicy and all tightly-woven with the main plot.

In so many words - they fixed my book.

After the meeting Sinead said she was sorry if they were too hard on me and I wanted to kiss her. Too hard was what I needed. Tough love was the only way this book was going to be anything but boring. It's hard to push a person past that resistance to change, but man, it's so worth it.

Thanks critique group.


Scotti Cohn said...

Sounds like you have a great critique group! I like that they asked questions (like "What's in it for him?") instead of just saying things like, "I can't identify with him" or "I'm not connecting with her." Those kinds of comments leave it up to me to figure out why, and often I never do!

Molly O'Keefe said...

You know, I understand to some extent that the writer has to figure stuff out on thier own - at least have ownership of some of the brainstorming ideas they like, but asking those specific questions are often the only way to test ideas to make sure they'll hold up. I love the specific question asking.

Sinead M said...

Thanks for the kudos, Molly, but seriously, I love brainstorming and I loved where you took the small amount of stuff we threw at you.
Cannot wait to read it.

I was thinking about Maureen's comment. I think I'm at the opposite end. I usually think what I write sucks, until someone tells me otherwise.

Maureen McGowan said...

I feel like my comment was taken out of context, LOL. Maybe I'll blog about that tomorrow.

I was talking about when stuff is polished and out on submission. I think it sucks until you guys tell me it doesn't. But if you guys have confidence in it... my confidence increases. Know what I mean?

Maureen McGowan said...

And Scotti we do have a great critique group. We've worked hard at it and I think now we are asking the right questions at the beginning of books. The ones that are going to make the books bigger and better.

Molly O'Keefe said...

hey maureen - it was taken out of context!! But I think a line like that works on a couple of levels

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