Friday, June 12, 2020

The Exhilaration of Brilliant Critique

Ever since the COVID-19 lockdown began, I've been working on a verse novel (currently titled The Lost Language) about two sixth-grade best friends who are trying to save one of the world's hundreds of endangered languages from going extinct. By devoting an hour a day to writing it (what I dubbed my "hour of bliss"), I finished a full first draft in around two months.

The book came pouring out of me with such joy in creation that I had no idea if it was wonderful or terrible, or a mix of both, and in which case, which were the wonderful parts and which were the terrible parts? The only way I've ever known how to answer such questions is by giving the draft to my writing group for their review. So last week I sent what I had of The Lost Language to the Writing Roosters, and awaited their verdict with the usual terror and trepidation.

We met Wednesday night, via ZOOM, and this is what they said:

"I love it!"
"I love it, too!"
"I really do!"
"This is my favorite of your books, and I love all of them!"
"I could totally hear Claudia!" (which would not necessarily be a good feature in all books by all authors, but is probably a good feature in this book by Claudia)

Whew! Did this mean the book was ready to be rushed off to my agent?

Um - that would be a no.

For here is what else they said.

The two main relationships in the book are between my main character (Betsy) and her best friend (Lizard) and between Betsy and her mother. The Roosters had a lot of problems with the relationship between Betsy and Lizard, mainly because they didn't like Lizard and couldn't see why Betsy wanted to be friends with her.

They also had a lot of problems with the relationship between Betsy and her mother, mainly because they didn't like the mother and couldn't see why Betsy's perfectly lovely father ever married her.

They also had a lot of problems with the relationship between Betsy's mother and Lizard, who (unlikable as they both are) also don't like each other.

They liked the idea of two kids trying to save a dying language, but they needed more motivation for these particular two kids to be so invested in the project.

One of the climax scenes turns on a betrayal of Betsy by Lizard; they want that totally overhauled.

There is a story line involving Lizard and her father that didn't work for anybody.

They needed more interiority from Betsy, to see her evolution more clearly from the inside.

They identified some problems with pacing.

They weren't sure about certain aspects of the verse format.

And a whole bunch of other things that are in my SEVEN PAGES of handwritten notes.

Am I discouraged?


I am exhilarated.

For here is the weird and wonderful thing about writing. I wrote a book that four of my fellow writers LOVED despite finding fault with just about every single aspect of it. That seems impossible, but it's completely true.

 And guess what? All these things they want fixed are FIXABLE.


By ME!

So tomorrow morning I'm going to wake up early for the first of many daily hours of bliss spent happily rewriting. Thank you, beloved Roosters!

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