Sunday, March 27, 2011

GRW Meeting Part 2: Gin Ellis Critique Workshop

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spirit alive, GRW created this annual event in which published authors volunteer their time to critique the work of unpublished writers like myself.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.


Denise said...

I'm SO glad this was such a positive experience and that Carla was able to give you really valuable insight. "Point of veiw" must be the word this weekend as I spent most of Saturday looking for mine only to realize that I already have one. ; )

Nicki Salcedo said...

Carla Fredd owes me a lunch date for some samosas, but I'll forgive her since she gave you such a detailed and motivating critique. We are lucky to have so many published authors to give of their time (when they have their own projects to worry about). Thanks for this wonderful recap of the second half of the day! Thanks to Carla and the other GRW authors (on twitter at @GRW_Pubs). Happy writing.

Pam said...

Why do we do this, Denise? Question ourselves and second guess ourselves - and, in my case, try to be something that I am not? Sounds like we BOTH found ourselves this weekend. Yay, us!! :-)

Pam said...

Hey, Nicki, how about you let me take you out for samosas on Carla's behalf! :-) At GRW, I find exactly what I need, exactly when I need it, and I never cease to be amazed by the warmth and generosity of the membership. You are pretty awesome yourself; thank you for all that you do! Happy writing to you, too!

V.K. Tremain said...

What a great experience! To have that help is invaluable! I wish you much success on The Wishing Box!

Qwillia Rain said...

I understand exactly what you mean. But keep in mind, fun can be found in the revisions. I can say I've revised books no less than four times (and one was rewritten at least 24 times) and somewhere within those times I have nearly or completely rewritten the entire story.

I agree whole-heartedly with Carla, tell the story you want to tell. The magic and the draw is infused into your emotional investment in that story.

Pam said...

Thanks, V.K. It was such a positive experience - even the negative criticism. My confidence is restored. I am ready to get back to work.

Pam said...

Qwilia, I believe what you say. I am actually looking forward to this next revision. I was hating the process before because I didn't like where my story was headed. But now that I believe in the outcome, I am excited about my book once again. Thanks for your comments!

Anonymous said...

@Pam - It's so hard to write especially when you're not writing your story. I'm so glad that my critique helped you :)

@Nicki - at some point this year I will have some vacations days then it will be you, me and a whole bunch of samosas!!!


Pam said...

Thank you again for all your help, Carla. I will pass the word on to Nicki! :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Pam!
Thanks so much for dropping by my blog, and better yet, leaving a comment :)
You're very lucky (in the good sense of the word) to have a critique so motivating and helpful. Sometimes that's the best that can happen - another pair of eyes scanning the pages that are almost imprinted in our head. I do some beta-reading, and I found out that there's always something to improve - sight. We may never achieve Perfection, but to strive for it is a great way to give the best you can, and seems you're in the right path! I wish you all the best!

Pam Asberry said...

Thanks, EEV! It is SO hard to remain objective about one's own writing. And every pair of eyes that goes over my manuscript seems to zero in on something different. That's why I am lucky to have not one, but TWO critique partners - and events like the Gin Ellis workshop to help me! Thank you for stopping by!