Tuesday, September 1, 2009


So my writing group met at my house last night and they didn’t like Chapters 3 and 4 of the new book. At the end of the evening (my manuscript was critiqued last), when they could see how discouraged I was about the entire project, they hastened to reassure me. One of them said, “Remember, it was only the FIRST SCENE of Chapter Three that I didn’t like; I liked the rest.” Another one said, “Remember, it was only Mason’s interactions with his mother that I didn’t like; I liked the scenes at school.” And the third one reminded me that it was only some OTHER small bit that had made her think there was a fatal flaw in the whole thing. No, that made ME think there was a fatal flaw in the whole thing.

So this morning I’m discouraged.

I’ve been discouraged before. But this book is supposed to be my “breakout book,” the book that catapults me from “midlist” to greatness, that transforms my career, that gives me not only fame and fortune, but children’s book immortality.

And they didn’t love it!

What to do? I think I’m especially discouraged for two reasons. 1) The scenes the group didn’t like are scenes that do connect tightly to the very premise for the book. So it seemed that the critique didn’t strike at a few outlying leaves on a few superfluous branches, but at the project’s deep-lying roots. 2) The scenes the group didn’t like are scenes that were revelatory of ME, of who I am as a person and a mother: when they didn’t like Mason’s mother, it felt like they didn’t like ME as a mother.

Okay, so what to do? The most tempting option is always to give up. Some books aren’t meant to be written. There is such a thing as a false start, also known as barking up a wrong tree. Better to abandon a fatally flawed project after four chapters than after ten. I work full-time at another demanding job; I don’t have TIME to bark up wrong trees. My barking needs to be maximally productive.

But the option I’m going to take is to go ahead and write Chapter 5. And then Chapter 6. See if the problem sorts itself out, if later chapters contain a clue for how to go back and fix the earlier chapters.

After all, it was only the FIRST scene of Chapter Three that Phyllis didn’t like.

No comments:

Post a Comment