stepping into the void

My writing critique group met last night. This is the new group that I was invited to join back in July. It was a great meeting. I submitted a story that teeters on the edge between fiction and truth, and all the members provided valuable feedback that will help me improve this work. For me, the stories with large grains of truth are harder to write and rewrite. When art mirrors life this closely I’m not sure what details to include and what to leave out. This group really helps me see the weaknesses of a piece that I can feel but I can’t figure out. Do you know this feeling? You read a scene and think – something here isn’t working?

Having a fresh pair of eyes to pick out exactly how it isn’t working – invaluable. This is something I think every writer really needs. Of course, I am in awe of all the good writing I get to read from the other members, too. It is a little intimidating and I just hope that my work is on par.

One person is working on a larger narrative project and has submitted two different starts, with two different focus points and themes. This writer is struggling on how to tell the story. I can empathize with this trouble. For me, all the longer works of fiction that I have tackled have raised structural issues early on. In my first novel, I wrote two first person narratives that weave together. While writing I had a hard time slipping in and out of the voices. I kept fretting about how it was all come together in the end and spent a lot of time thinking and not writing. Finally I resolved to write out one perspective entirely, that way I could focus on one voice at a time. It didn’t solve my structural issue, but it did help me move forward.

I had to just write the story out – let the story take its own shape. It feels a lot life stepping out into the void, dipping a big toe into chaos – not knowing if and how you will emerge on the other side. For me, this gets the words on the page.

I am doing this now with my novel-in-progress. There is only one narrator in this work, but the story straddles time. I’ve been writing it in chunks. By the end of the month I am hoping to be finished with the chunk that involves my narrator at nine years old. I might even go and edit this chunk, add in all those details that I’ve learned and have become relevant along the way. I’m still not sure how the structure will work out, still, but for me the only way to figure it out is to just keeping writing.

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One thought on “stepping into the void

  1. a good critique is sooo important – when I'm wondering what's wrong with a scene I just finish it as best I can and chuck it at my CP. She'll tell me immediately what's off (and usually one or two ways to fix it). It's wonderful that you've found a critique group that is insightful and supportive with feedback. And good luck with words-on-the-page; putting the draft from in-your-head to black and white is always the hardest part. Once the words are there, it's easier to wrangle them 🙂

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