Last week I shared 35 pages of my novel/baby to the 15 people in my novel writing class. It’s the first time anyone has met my characters or heard much beyond a couple of sentences describing my plot. Needless to say, when I had to sit in silence for 30 minutes while everyone critiqued my work, it was NOT EASY (because I’m sensitive about my sh*t).
Generally, I received some good feedback. It’s always interesting to hear what people focus on and how they respond to your characters. One guy called my girl protagonist something like a “slut with a tramp stamp,” which made me really sad. 😦 I just did not think that was an accurate description at all! Thankfully, none of the women appeared to agree.
Anyway, I have two main takeaways from the experience. First, I need to begin the story in a different place. Where I start now, I have the characters upset about various things, but the reader doesn’t really understand what’s going on. You’re supposed to experience the ups and downs with the characters instead of meeting them after a couple of pivotal things have happened in their lives.
Second, I must get rid of my “abstract nouns,” according to the teacher. During the class, she sat there for a really long time and critiqued one of my scenes line by line! She said she was using my piece as an example to teach the class about scene writing. That was rough, but I certainly internalized her point: replace abstract nouns/verbs (e.g., “surprise” or “happy” or “sad”) with images that convey those words (e.g., “she covered her hands over her mouth” = surprise or “she threw her arms in the air and laughed” = happy…I think). Basically, “show don’t tell.”
Anyway, I have like 25,000 words right now, but I’ve taken a break from writing every day. I need to think about how I’m going to go about restructuring the story. Once I do that, I’ll get back to it. Toodooloo!
P.S. Hopefully this song is stuck in your head by now: