Wednesday, July 27, 2011

When Things Clicked

So while I was at my writers retreat this past weekend, my friends helped me figure out some revisions for my novel, The Breakaway. In none of the 16 years I've tried to fix this problem in the book, I've never had such a helpful discussion where everything just clicked. Afterward, I kept thinking why that was. Why now? Was it because this book is more geared toward a young adult audience and these were all young adult writers? Was it because I was just in the right frame of mind to accept criticism and hear suggestions? Was it because I'm only a few month away from my publisher's deadline to turn in the final manuscript for editing? Then I stopped and looked at the situation - sitting in a room with six other writers, all discussing and taking turns and listening to an excerpt.

I think no matter how far advanced we get in technology, nothing will ever beat sitting in a room with other writers. No amount of chatting, no blog post, no Skype video session, nothing could have ever worked on the same level as what happened at my retreat. Everybody listened to my excerpt at the same time - they heard me reading it how I wanted it heard, and then they took turns in telling me what they thought and why the excerpt (and others like it) were not working as well as they could in the novel. I got to weigh in, too, and ask questions and discuss with them what might work. We were all affected by the same environment and setting and everything just came together.

So now I have some fairly substantial revisions to do on my novel before it's due to my editor. Yay! Finally, finally, finally, this book will come together. I can feel it.

So what do you think? Have you ever had an experience like this where things just clicked after forever? This is my motto while I do revisions.

Also, we are announcing our contest for the next anthology on Monday, August 1st! Now aren't you just excited? You should be. Because prize money is involved with this anthology, and we're really excited to announce what it's all about and how much we want you a part of it!


  1. Yay for breakthroughs! Yay for contests! Yay for anthologies!

    Ahem. Toning it down now. Glad to hear your trip was both relaxing and productive.

  2. I can feel your excitement in your post. I'm so glad you had that moment where it just clicked. Can't wait to read the end result!

    It's not the same as being with writers, but a very close friend is an English prof and has a degree in multicultural education. I write multicultural fiction and so, for me, having her read my novel and then sitting down over tea (and chocolate!) and talking about it for HOURS felt similarly gratifying. Does this work, did you believe x would do that, etc. It was crazy awesome.

    Maybe it's being with people you trust, who get what a novel is/should look like?

    Anyway, have fun with your revisions!

  3. I think you're right that interaction is really important. For me, I can hear a message several times before I really get it, and the thing that helps me get it is often just hearing the message in the right way. Face to face, we can read each other and know if the message is coming through or not. We can change our message until it makes sense. That's important.

    I had something click like that years ago when a writing friend told me in person that my writing was like driving by a bunch of billboards. I didn't get it right away, but after some explaining it made things very clear, and I'm a much better writer because of it.

  4. Ah, the difference between writers and English teachers. :) If you were to ask an English teacher to read over a draft, s/he'd want a written copy (either hard copy or e-copy) and time alone to mark it all up. :)
    Glad you fixed what was bothering you.
    (And chocolate won't fix ms problems, but it sure fixes your mood.)

  5. Stephanie: Yay is right! We're excited about our next anthology, hehe!

    j a: The end result will be totally great, I hope. *crosses fingers* - That sounds wonderful with your English prof friend. I think trust has a lot to do with it, too.

    Davin: You've told me that billboard thing before, and I love that. It has helped me understand your writing more, too, on a really nice level.

    English: LOL - well, that has its place, too! Chocolate is the best for fixing my mood. It always calms me down. :)

  6. I just ate the last of my chocolate, but I don't want to drive to the store. What do I do???

    Congrats on you're breakthrough. There's something amazing about face-to-face crit groups, isn't there? Wen it's good, it's very good:)

  7. I have rarely had that kind of interaction with other writers. I more than envy you.

    Not sure if I'll do this year's contest, but I'm excited to see what you have in store, nevertheless!

  8. I don't always read to others, but I do read it to myself....and act it out.

    My kids think I'm insane and they're probably correct.

  9. Just yesterday morning, I had the same thought. Actually, I was on the phone, but I was discussing the minutia of a plot problem in my book with a friend. Unlike online, I felt free to really go into detail and and at great length about THIS book, THIS scene, with someone who had read a draft. It was incredibly helpful and I managed to hash out a problem that has been bugging me about the book for a long time.

    This morning my friend was not available, and I thought how dependent I am on this lifeline, because there is really no one else I can talk to like this about my book

  10. This is why I have to have an in-person weekly writing group. As you said, there is no substitute for other writers, sitting in a room, talking about your book.

  11. Kelly: Do you have chocolate chips? :)

    Nevets: I rarely have those kinds of interactions, either, and I know I wouldn't get them much in critique groups, either. This was different than that for some reason. I sure hope you do our contest! It's all anonymous, you know.

    Martin: I read out loud to myself all the time, especially if I need to focus. You're not insane. You're just a writer!

    Tara: Aww, yeah, it's hard to feel dependent in a way, huh? I think it's a good and bad thing, but I also know there's just no way I can ever work in a vacuum.

    Janci: Yeah, we've talked about that before. I've had the chance to be on a few crit groups lately and I've passed those chances up. I just haven't found the right one yet with people around here who write what I do.

  12. I love that other writers are able to point out the weaknesses that I may have suspected but was too scared or lazy or optimistic to admit to. And then they suggest all sorts of good solutions! Congrats on having such a productive retreat, that's fabulous.

  13. I know the used to happen with my earlier writing group. You're right, there is no replacement for a roomful of writing and reading folks discussing what is not right with a book.

  14. I've been on the hunt for a local writing/critique group because I think that sitting around in the same room and discussing our work really is helpful. Glad it really helped you!

  15. Carrie: Yep! I'm often too scared or lazy to see things, and it's nice to have others give me a swift little kick, lol.

    Damyanti: I'd like to get a writing group together where I live, but between time and genre and other such things, it just hasn't happened. Maybe one day!

    Rayvenne: Love how you spell your name! It is SO helpful, yes, to be in a group, but it can be hard to find the right one.


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