writers group

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In my previous post ‘Nerves’ I told you all that I had submitted the first chapter and a half of my current WIP for critique. One of the reasons I chose that was because of how much I was struggling with my revision of the first draft and how I couldn’t pin-point what was wrong. Well my group certainly knew! It was unanimous that my protagonist was a whiny, passive bitch. It makes perfect sense. In Storybook Perfect my main protagonist (Yui Watanabe) is already a strong young woman so doesn’t have a great deal of growth in that area. I wanted Fanta to grow more so I purposefully weakened her at the start, burdening her with an anxiety disorder among other things. Unfortunately I made her so weak she’s not easily likeable.

Fortunately this is something I can fix. The person Fanta becomes later in the story will simply have to be clearer at the start. I’m quite confident that this is the problem I was sensing from my manuscript – the false/forced growth of my protagonist. I’m sorry Fanta, hopefully they’ll like you a bit more next time ;p

Getting my work critiqued was great. It was also widely agreed that the alternate world setting was awesome. That makes me beam with pride since the reason my other novel was turned down by the agent who requested the full manuscript was because the world was too ‘stock standard fantasy’(I’ve made a lot of changes now so it’s a bit less run-of-the-mill for those curious – I listen to feedback). Funnily enough she disliked the world, but loved my protagonist – the exact opposite of this story, so I’m laughing quite a bit right now.

I also really love talking to several of the members of the group. I’m looking forward to next time eagerly.

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The last two weeks have been crazy with work. My once part time job in which I worked two days a week for 5 hours a day or less is suddenly a five days a week, full day shift job. It’s because the store manager is on holidays and while the boss is away everyone seems to be looking to me to run the store and the massive mid-year sale set-up. I can understand why, I was a manager for 5 years sometimes running much busier stores, but I came back from maternity leave as a simple casual for a reason: to avoid this. This is the cause of my less-frequent posting, but not the cause of my nerves.

I’m nervous because I uploaded my first piece for critique with my writers group. I originally planned to post some of my very best work (the first chapters for Storybook Perfect if you were curious) but didn’t for two reasons. Number one is because I am struggling a bit with revision on Fanta’s story – something’s not clicking right, but I can’t pinpoint it (editing in tiny fragments of time is not helping me either) – and a critique of the early chapters might help me find what I’m missing. Reason number two is because what would I do if my ‘best work’ was torn to shreds?

I know I’m just being paranoid, I mean the work is pretty solid – those opening chapters were enough to get the first agent I approached to ask for my full manuscript, so they can’t be too crappy – but that doesn’t ease the fear that all writers have: that I’m just not good enough.

Funnily enough, even with that thought in the back of my head it doesn’t stop me from uploading other work for critique or from continuing to work on becoming a published author. Even if I worry I ‘might not be good enough’ I’m not going to give up, because you know what? If I’m not good enough now, what’s to say I can’t work hard and eventually be good enough – or better? Anyway, giving up just isn’t my style.

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I’ve been wanting to join a writers group for a long time, craving the chance to both be critiqued by others (particularly those not emotionally invested in myself and my work) and to improve my own critiquing skills. Both time and fear have been holding me back.

The fear was the smaller of the two problems. I’m not an introvert so talking to strangers isn’t a daunting task. What worried me was that the group would not work for me. I worried that either I would dislike them (too harsh with their critiques and/or taking joy in that or too nice and pandering, not allowing themselves to say things that needed to be said) or they would dislike me for the similar reasons to why I might have not liked them.

The group I joined was a delight. We all noticed different things from the same pieces and while opinions occasionally differed it didn’t create any animosity between the opposed individuals. I was also glad to find out I wasn’t  awful at critiquing – which was another fear I had since I’ve never critiqued anything and then been able to listen to the author’s reply, unless you count myself… which would be weird.

While the whole group writes in the speculative fiction genre we all seem to write slightly different sub-genres, giving us all a chance to enjoy the widely varied worlds and styles. It was a fun day with some very cool people. I’m looking forward to our next meeting and a little disappointed it’s a whole month away!