From mid-October to mid-December I submitted the first six chapters of my work-in-progess (tentatively titled 'Parse') to a virtual writers workshop.
I'm not sure if it was or was not a success. The feedback on the first two chapters was positive, but the subsequent chapters were universally panned. For my last submission I revised chapters 3-4, and the feedback was slightly more encouraging.
This post isn't about the other participants in the workshop, nor about their feedback. It's about the result of the feedback on my progress on the manuscript.
I've stopped writing.
It's not "writer's block", which I don't believe in. I'm discouraged and doubtful about the entire concept of the story, so I'm letting it sit and listening to the back of my brain whisper to me about characterization, tension, and plot point timing. I hope I'll get past this and start writing soon.
I think, after considerable reflection, the manuscript was too young to send out to play. The story needed more revisions, more seasoning, and simply more time. Before I finished my first novel I had years of unsuccessful attempts to finish stories and I discovered describing the plot to anyone, friend or foe or chance met in an elevator, was the certain kiss of death.
Parse isn't dead. But it has certainly been retarded in its growth. Now that the holidays are over I hope I can get past this problem and start writing again, even if it means tossing out 2/3 of the existing manuscript. I've done more violent edits to other manuscripts in the past and the finished book survived the experience.
But I've learned to be cautious about if and when I put a manuscript out for critique. If you're a writer like me, think twice. I jumped at the critique workshop chance when it came around. What I didn't do was ask myself if the current manuscript was ready for it. Negative criticism comes to us all, but we should only ask for criticism when we have something worthy to show. Otherwise, you're simply setting yourself up for failure.
My short story, 'The Divvy', won an award for 'Propulsive Scene and/or Plot Line' in the 2015 Stoneslide Story Contest. They may include it in their anthology or publish it on their website; as soon as I know I'll post here and on Facebook and Twitter.
- Propulsive scene and/or plot line: “The Divvy,” by Mary Holland, starts with an unwanted and burdensome gift and moves at tremendous speed through complications and challenges, barreling toward revelation, all the while assembling a fantastical and convincing world.
'The Divvy' is an outtake from The Bone Road. Originally, it was a bridge chapter between part 1 and part 2, and it was told from Jak's POV. But it never fit, so I tossed it into the edit folder where I keep the deathless prose that I cannot bear to part with, i.e., large hunks of text that don't quite work but which I cannot delete. This is the only way I can edit out large globs of text.
When it never did end up in the book, I rewrote the story from another POV and submitted it to Beneath Ceaseless Skies. They rejected it, but suggested changing the POV (again!) to the primary character instead of to an observer. So eventually I rewrote the story a third time and, trust me, changing a POV is much harder than writing a new story from scratch. Beneath Ceaseless Skies asks authors not to resubmit revised work and I took them at their word, so as other opportunities came up it went out and came back. I've lost track of how many times.
I'm so pleased it won an award, and that an impartial editor liked it. If you've read The Bone Road you know it's a complicated world with an oddball premise. Boiling that down without dumping a heavy explanation on the reader's head was a hell of a lot of work. I'm so happy it paid off.