The insightful Carla Fredd and I
Following Suzanne Brockmann's inspiring message and book signing at yesterday's Georgia Romance Writers meeting, I adjourned to the hotel lobby for the Virginia Ellis Memorial Critique Workshop.
I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but Virginia Ellis was a successful writer and wonderful human being, as evidenced by this short biography as well as this tribute to her. In her memory and to keep her generous spirit alive, GRW created this annual event in which published authors volunteer their time to critique the work of unpublished writers like myself.
I had the pleasure of working with Carla Fredd, who went over the synopsis and first 25 pages of my work-in-progress, titled The Wishing Box, with a fine toothed comb. I am so grateful to her. Not only did she point out to me the extent to which I was "telling" versus "showing"- and I thought I was over that! - and encourage me to go deeper with my point of view, a topic she generously asked Suzanne Brockmann to address during the question-and-answer session following her talk, she helped me to realize that I am no longer writing the book I set out to write, and encouraged me to be true to myself.
My book started out as women's fiction with an element of romance - not a true romance novel, because the main story centered on women's friendship and the internal growth of the main character, a young widow struggling to create a better life for herself and her young son while negotiating the minefield of dating. Think Friday Night Knitting Club meets Bridget Jones' Diary. However, conversations with agents and editors convinced me to go in a different direction; as a result, I added a hero who didn't even exist in my original draft and started my story in the middle so as to follow the "rules" as to when this character had to be introduced. And, of course, there had to be a fairy tale ending.
Interestingly, it was these aspects of the story that Carla questioned most; when I shared my original vision with her and explained the reasons I had made the changes I had, she just shook her head. She felt that my story should begin in Chapter 2, where I had begun it in the first place; she thought it made more sense to introduce my male character much later in the book, like I did in the original draft. And in literary fiction, it isn't essential that the hero and the heroine live "happily ever after," although, of course, they might.
This was a huge relief to me. Of course, it means I have to start over with my revision. And the fact that I am writing women's fiction as opposed to true romance might mean that my book will be harder to sell. But I think one of the reasons I was having such a hard time with the revision is that I was no longer one hundred percent invested in the story; I was writing a book to please someone else instead of telling the story I set out to tell. I am excited about returning to my original outline - with a few twists - armed with all the knowledge of craft and writing muscle I have acquired since I first started working on the manuscript. This will take a little longer, but in the end, I will have a book that I am proud of.
The Wishing Box may never make the New York Times Bestseller List, but it will be the very best book I am capable of writing at this time. And it will be MINE.