Yes! I am no longer a virgin!
I will have to say, Saturday was one of the scariest moments of my life. Entering a room full of about sixty people, armed with six copies of 10 pages of my own original writing, about to hand it over for semi-strangers to read and give their analyzed comments and criticism to me. They don’t just write down their comments on your manuscript – NO – these cringeworthy words are said OUT LOUD for ALL to hear. Okay, not everyone in the room is listening, thank goodness, just the six people at my table and any eavesdroppers who were lurking (yes, I was even worried about eavesdroppers).
So, what’s the big deal? They read it, they comment on it and you go home, right? WRONG.
Well, first off, let me tell you, I like to worry. That’s something that I can honestly say, I get a gold star for. I’m the Worrywart Queen.
At the beginning of the week, I was editing my manuscript, getting it ready to go and I had a moment of “Well, this is shit. I can’t let them read this.” So, I wrote something new over the next five days at my #5amwritersclub with my Twitter gang. I erased words, tweaked them, wrote some new ones and still, I didn’t like the words that showed up on the page. I worried about being judged on these 10 pages alone. They will remember reading my crappy 10 pages and they will tell all their friends during one of their awesome coffee meet ups and they will remember this FOREVER!
My mind started freaking out with all the different possibilities. I had questions racing through my brain (most leaving just as quick though). Maybe I should I take 10 pages of words that were already polished (so I appear like I know what I’m doing… like I’m a kickass author ready for novel publication)? Maybe something awesome from the middle of the novel? A murder scene? No. This was a romance group, so that’s not the best idea. Maybe, I should go for some scenes with making out, some lip action, some detailed hot and sweaty sex, oh wait, these people have been writing that forever! They’ll be experts at sex. Gawd! Scratch that idea. Maybe I should switch novels? Take a section from a different novel? Which novel though? I have plenty to choose from, because I’m also the Never-Finish-Anything Queen. What to do? What to do?
Result: I end up drafting 10 new pages the night before the critique meeting. My fingers were zooming across the keyboard faster than a mouse licking peanut butter off a trap that is about to snap him in two. Wow! I was feeling the love of my imagination. These were great words – no time for editing though. Three different scenes, one that made me cry a river while I was writing it (I killed the main character’s mother – everyone cries when you kill the mother). I ran to work to print them off because of course, my printer was dead when I needed it (which I have since thrown it into the e-waste pile). I head off to meet the wicked semi-strangers-kind-of-friends with the poisoned-but-sweet tongues…
As my knee bounced a million miles an hour, I made dumb jokes that made everyone bust a gut (I’m not that funny, they were just being nice, and probably quite nervous themselves), while we waited for everyone to hand out their paperwork. I threw out the word “sex” about a dozen times, trying to get them to think about something good before they read my work. We went around the circle, critiquing one person at a time. I was second-last, hoping to be the very last, so we might run out of time and I could go home happy, without sporting a tear-stained face. Two of these people were already published and three were so good, they could be published at any second. The girl next to me presented a manuscript that was so freaking PERFECT – I really LOVED it – that I almost cried. I wanted to read the rest of her novel right then and there. I gushed about how amazing it was, as did everyone else… and then it was my turn. I had to follow the best manuscript at the table. That really sucked.
No need to fret after all… these people were awesome. They started off with nice, positive, cheery comments about everything they liked (and LOVED too), and then they hit me with a sledge hammer – I only cried on the inside – and I took the painful negative criticism like a rockstar.
You want to know why?
Because they were right. So right. And it was unanimous all the way around the table. When they explained their thoughts about my moving the middle “emotional scene that ripped their heart out” to the middle of the novel, I found myself nodding and saying, “That works. That will be better. Yeah, so much better.” They gave me ideas of where to go from there and asked if I had thought of this or that. Brilliant. Now, I wish all five of these semi-strangers-now-great-friends lived closer to me, so we could do this critiquing craziness every Saturday! They helped me so much and now I’m inspired to go back and change stuff. Plus, I’m determined to finish something right to the end. And submit it! *Grinning like a Cheshire Cat over here*
Not only am I NOT a critique virgin anymore, I now want to encourage other writing friends to take a stab at losing their virginity, as well. It was quite a high-stress nail-biting experience, but I highly recommend it!
Thank you to the Toronto Romance Writers (especially Maureen, Nicole, Bonnie, Jane and Dawn) for twisting my arm and easing me into the group critique world. It was a memorable day!
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