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StormWarning
04-12-2006, 11:45 PM
All right, all right, I'm laughing. I see the error of my ways, and I'd like to edit my way to redemption...

It's true: I am precocious, self-conscious, and over-the-top, and my writing does not conceal these qualities.

However: I'm not that far off the mark (judging by agents' responses). I think I just don't see the lines I'm not supposed to step over, so I'm constantly stepping over them. Admittedly, this has been a problem in real life, and is therefore probably true of my writing.

I admit, my best writing coaches were a small handful of teachers and professionals, so I was hoping to stay within my comfort zone by eliciting the help of a teacher or published writer, who could provide qualified criticism from an experiential perspective.

It's been suggested that I use a group situation to obtain the criticism I seek; but right now, at least, I'm alone with my plight. I'm too old skool to be comfortable outside the F2F format, and getting in on a group, much less finding one in my area, has gone unrequited. Further, until I get a handle on what I'm doing wrong in my own work, I feel immensely underqualified to tell others what's wrong with theirs, and I can only hear the clock ticking louder and louder as I try to make good on this lifelong dream.

I am not deleting my original post, as this is who I am, for better and worse. But maybe now we can laugh. Maybe?

<sigh>


This was my first agent's assessment of the first 100 pages of my fiction manuscript. "Yes, well, the same is true of the author," I was dismissive. This was my first rejection, and I was unfazed. Surely these qualities had their place, I was confident. Two stacks of rejection letters later, I was fazed. Obviously, my manuscript had problems, but what were they? Unfortunately, my mentor (a successful Broadway librettist) had passed away before I could even tell him I had embarked on my first novel, and my two professional-writer beta readers were too busy with deadlines of their own to read anything beyond my title page.

I've been adrift ever since, trying to piece together my failings based on what few critical comments I received from the more generous of agents. Although I've made some headway, it's not enough. It's not nearly enough.

So, here's what I've got:

+ A too-long novel about two girls who become best friends in kindergarten, virtual strangers in adolescence, acquaintances in college, and good friends in adulthood. Why does their friendship take many detours? Sex, what else!

+The story is presented like snapshots in a shoebox that reveal the lives and relationships of these two best friends as they confront life, love, each other, and themselves.

+ Although the story, the characters, and the author do not suck, the piece as a whole does not "sing."

And, here's what I'd like:

+ An experienced professional with a good sense of humor to give it to me straight, as in: "Here's what's working, here's what isn't."

+ A seasoned writer or teacher who would derive satisfaction from seeing someone benefit from his/her experience, knowledge, and tutelage.

+ A sharp individual who is not put off by a sarcastic wit and an argumentative nature (though I would try to keep both to a minimum).

This is my pledge:

+ I will not waste time with neediness, pessimism, and self-pity (I have people for that).

+ I will maximize what little time you have to give.

+ I will repay your efforts by not making you regret your decision to help.

Interested parties should be able to provide writing credentials and/or teaching experience. A brief explanation of why you'd be willing to help wouldn't hurt, either.

Email or private message preferable.

sunandshadow
04-13-2006, 08:53 PM
+ A too-long novel about two girls who become best friends in kindergarten, virtual strangers in adolescence, acquaintances in college, and good friends in adulthood. Why does their friendship take many detours? Sex, what else!

I don't have time to mentor, but just from your description here are some guesses at what the problem might be.

Friendship and detours are good content, but they're still only content. If it doesn't sing, perhaps it's because you lack some sort of overall driving plot to organize things and create a climactic ending.

Another common problem is starting the story in the wrong place. If you want to start with them in kindergarten, this will only work if the initial incident which kickstarts the dramatic plot happens when they are in kindergarten and directly involves them as kindergarteners. Otherwise consider starting later and including the childhoood stuff as flashbacks.

Bufty
04-13-2006, 11:15 PM
This is the same novel that was 'in a bubble' last August - yes?

StormWarning
04-13-2006, 11:38 PM
Yes, same novel, Bufty :-s Perhaps I should have created a new identity and started over, but even a screen name only conceals so much. The novel is the novel. That hasn't changed. But my attitude has--there's less of it. :)

StormWarning
04-19-2006, 09:48 PM
So, would anybody actually tell me if I've set my expectations ridiculously high?

Bufty
04-20-2006, 02:32 AM
Turn the scenario around - would you give up your time to mentor someone else on the basis of the information above?

StormWarning
04-20-2006, 02:56 AM
Turn the scenario around - would you give up your time to mentor someone else on the basis of the information above?
Yes! And maybe that's the problem. I would, because I love a good challenge, and particularly when I know what I'm getting myself into. But based on your response, I'm thining I've basically posted a help-wanted ad that only I would apply to. [sigh] I guess I should work on loosening my grip.

Unimportant
04-20-2006, 03:23 AM
SW, have you considered joining a critique group?

veinglory
04-20-2006, 03:33 AM
I agree. If you do have time to help other people then a reciprocal critique group should help. I do a little advising as a one-off but only in my own genre where I pretty sure what I say will be on target.

StormWarning
04-20-2006, 03:44 AM
SW, have you considered joining a critique group?
I have, and I have. Too many voices with conflicting opinions and ideas of their own. This was a short-lived experience that only strengthened my desire for a single, strong voice that would bring clarity instead of confusion.

Unimportant
04-20-2006, 03:56 AM
In my experience, yes, critique groups can initially seem confusing, when you get ten crits saying ten different things. The trick, IMO, is to stick with it, to learn to find concensus among the apparent contradictions, and to use writing critiques of others' work both as a way of enhancing one's own writing skills and as a way of gauging the craft level of those providing you with the critiques that seem so bafflingly contradictory.

I agree that a skilled professional is more likely to provide a bang-on critique than a new, unskilled writer. On the other hand, a skilled professional is more likely to devote their limited free time to mentoring someone who's 'on the brink' and just needs that little helping hand to get over the last hurdle, rather than to take on someone who doesn't even understand the basics of the craft. This isn't a judgement on you, SW: I've never read your writing and have no idea how extensive your skills and knowledge are. My point is that it's quite likely none of the pros on this board would know where you're at, either.

AW does have a 'share your work' thread -- perhaps posting the first scene of your novel there would serve as 'advertisement' to the pros as well as gaining you some potentially useful critiques?

StormWarning
04-20-2006, 04:41 AM
The trick, IMO, is to stick with it, to learn to find concensus among the apparent contradictions, and to use writing critiques of others' work both as a way of enhancing one's own writing skills and as a way of gauging the craft level of those providing you with the critiques that seem so bafflingly contradictory.

Indeed, your argument has merit, as does posting a sample of the work. Perhaps it's time to reevaluate my self-imposed restrictions--or rework my appeal for a mentor. Perhaps I'll do both!

Unimportant
04-20-2006, 05:55 AM
Alternatively: there are heaps of critique groups in various places online, if you're not comfortable posting here; and there are F2F workshops that let you interact with and be critiqued by professionals, if you want to spend the time and money. There are also agents and professional writers who will, for a fee, provide a written critique of your novel.