Or epiphany, for those of you unfamiliar with my daughter's delightfully strange talent for twisting words.
Most of you reading this know I've been preparing a partial manuscript to send to an agent. But I've been putting off sending it because I wasn't happy with it and I wasn't sure why. It just felt wrong. But I couldn't see the problem. Sooo, I signed up to have Bob Mayer do a Submission Critique.
Wow. (< --- biggest understatement ever)
Some of you have heard about Bob's reputation for stark, incisive honesty and I can tell you it is very well deserved. He really does know what he's doing and will not hesitate to tell you if he thinks you do not. So now I know what the problems are. Yes, more than one. Most of them so obvious, in hindsight, it's rather horrifying. He had a lot to say (yes, really) and every single thing he said was right. Damn it.
After I got his critique, I went through a long agonizing period of time -- okay, so it was only about a day, but it felt like forever -- when I decided to stop writing. Just stop. That's it, I'm done, I can't do this. I'm not even qualified to write a grocery list, let alone an entire book. This is for the best, really. Good to know this now before I waste any more time. I need to just stop kidding myself here. I can not write.
Hearing hard truths about your writing is difficult -- another understatement -- but it is also incredibly helpful. So after I'd gone through half a box of Kleenex and exchanged a couple more emails (which were quite encouraging, by the way), I had a stern talk with myself and came to some conclusions.
This process was painful but it was not fatal, to me or my writing career. I am a writer. I'm not going to stop writing. If I stop I can't get better and I am determined to get better.
I knew the work had problems. That was why I asked for help. Good for me. It should not be a big surprise that it came back covered in red ink. Of course, I wasn't expecting quite so much of it . . . Sigh. But the comments didn't say "you can't write," they pointed out some problems. Some really big, difficult, obvious, can't believe I missed that problems, but still. I can fix problems, now that I can see them.
However. Some of the comments and questions really made me stop and think. Hard. And reevaluate what I'm writing and why. And I made a couple of amazing discoveries. We're talking light bulbs flashing and planets colliding and journeys being re-charted here, folks. You ready for this? Because I sure was not.
Apostrophe #1: I do not want to write romance. Not quite sure how I ever decided that I should. I love to read it, will always read it. I do not want to write it. More than that, I'm not good at writing it. And I'm not going to do it anymore. What a HUGE relief.
Apostrophe #2: I am writing a political thriller. I've always been afraid to say that because women, with very few exceptions, do not write in that genre. Who was I to think I could do it? So I was dressing it up as a romance or a romantic suspense or a romance thriller or whatever because I had it stuck in my tiny little mind that turning this story into some kind of romance would make it more "acceptable" for me to be writing it. Bob's critique made me realize that by doing so I was taking a perfectly good idea and ruining it. No more. I'm writing a political thriller. That scares the hell out of me because I'm not sure I have what it takes to do that. But it also makes me unbelievably happy. I'm so excited about this I can't even describe it.
So it's back to the drawing, er, writing board for me. I've got a lot of work cut out for me and a lot of problems to fix and pages upon pages of bad writing to delete. I can't wait.
Thank you, Bob.
Note to all of you writers out there: I strongly recommend you sign up to have Bob Mayer make you cry and cast you into the pit of despair. If you are willing to pay attention and want to learn something, your writing will be better for it. And isn't that the point?