Writing, Critique Groups and Playing the Publisher’s Game, Oh My!
Last night was my second time attending a SCBWI (Society of Children Books Writers & Illustrator’s) writer’s critique group. We meet monthly. The first time I met them, I was a bubble of nerves.
“Will they like me? Will I belong? Will they believe I have any talent or ability at all to pursue this career or will they look at my blood, sweat, and tears, pat me on the back and say, “That was a cute attempt…don’t quit your day job kid”?
Of course, I was NOT reading anything from my manuscript the first time around. I wanted to get a feel for them first. I heard others read on my first day and yes, became intimidated. Most in the group are already published authors, and unlike other groups in my city, I do appreciate my group for taking in newbies like me.
A month past and I received the email.
“Who’s attending and who’s reading?” *swallowing sand paper*
I told myself to just rip off the band aid off, get it over with and read the dang chapter already. I’m only 12-15 chapters away from finishing my first draft, so might as well get this critique, editing process started. No time like the present, they say, right?
It’s interesting because, after I read my chapter out loud, they all doodled their thoughts on their copies and verbally critiqued, they gave me interesting advice about the Publishing world.
First, let me just say, they were very kind. *chuckles* I’m sure, they could have been more brutally honest. There were valid points they made about my first chapter. It must always be hard to have your story one way, being it’s your baby, you hold it dear, and then be given valid advice that requires you to change completely your first chapter, leading to more editing of the rest that follow.
I now understand how 2nd, 3rd, and etc drafts are made. I knew this day would come, but I wasn’t expecting it this soon.
So the Publishing world: Apparently there are “rules.” There’s a set look, feel and formula they desire. They will pretty much bypass anything else. They know what’s marketable. They’re business people who need to sell. I was told, you need to learn the rules, follow them, then in time, once you’ve proven marketable, then maybe you can break the rules.
Now, I grew up pursuing the entertainment industry through many outlets. (Music, Acting, Dance, Beauty, etc) I’m well aware of the game within the Entertainment Industry that you must play and sometimes, it can make your skin crawl. Now I’m realizing that all Creative industries, run the same way. It’s about knowing who’s who, playing by the rules to even get your foot in to be seen for a millisecond and then...chance. You fight, you kick, you bleed your arse off and then…the rest is up to chance.
Encountering this light bulb last night, thanks to these writers who have been in the industry, some for over 30 years; made my pursuing Writing become very real all of a sudden. I knew this journey would be long. I knew this journey would be hard. I knew…in theory. I got a dose of understanding and reality last night.
I was given “homework” sort of speak from the leader of my critique group. Grab all the dystopian novels I have in my possession, and read all their chapter ones. Read them and emulate them. The first chapter is crucial. The first sentence is dire. There’s a way of doing things with chapter ones, with the dystopian genre and if I want any hope of an agent or editor to even glance at my manucript, I need to emulate the formula; follow the “rules.”
(took a twitter break…I’m back)
I called the bestie and verbally processed last night. I’m almost done with my first draft but am now feeling conflicted about just focusing on finishing the last few chapters first or start a new version of the manuscript-2nd Draft-and start hacking at it.
First drafts, especially when it’s your first official one, I’m sure; are such a big vulnerable part of you. The thought of it not working as is, and needing to take it, deconstruct it and make it work now, can feel daunting. My mind wouldn’t shut up last night. Dozing off, my every last thought, as much as I attempted shutting it up, dealt with reworking my novel in my head.
I almost tackled my “homework” late last night, as my eyes were closing. The bestie talked me into putting everything away, going to sleep and starting fresh in the morning.
Yeah, it was a good idea. I was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.
So today, I am going to look like a mad woman, with books spread all throughout the floor,reading chapter ones, and jotting down notes. I’ll probably be mumbling to myself as well. Don’t act like you’ve never done it!
There are certain things I believe, one should still fight for. There may be aspects to the “rules” that are highly discouraged for beginners, but hey! What if it works out in the end? Many authors were told their story, concepts, etc wouldn’t work. They were rejected countless times and in the end, became published and some of them are now the big, well-known books out there today.
Apparently, a big “No-No” for beginners is tackling two POV’s. (Point of View’s). You are not expected, unless you’re an experienced author, to do this well, because they said it is very difficult to do, and do it with consistency that aids the flow of the story.
I was HIGHLY discouraged from doing so. I was being told in a nice cryptic way, “Don’t do it. Change it to one POV.”
I will have to say (and thanks to my bestie’s encouragement last night. She knows the entire story-manuscript), this may be the one point I feel strong about fighting for, at this present time. My story would be incomplete without both perspectives. There would be an emotional lacking. My main character’s developing relationship rides on misunderstandings and misguided first impressions. I need both of their views. I will continue to do so and wait and see. Hoping and wishing, it all works out in the end.
Off I go to research, full on mad woman style. Thanks for hearing the ramble.
Good luck writers! Happy Reading!