Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Believing is a Powerful Gift

Tuesdays with Amy

I had no intention of turning that first chapter into a book; I didn’t believe in it enough. It was dark; the characters ached with melancholy and the setting was too morose to sustain a reader’s interest. My protagonist, Clara, had been through enough in life, she didn’t need to have her character dissected as well.

But that first time I shared Clara with them, they empathized with her. They felt her pain and also wanted to know more about another character, a little girl who played in the funeral home. They were intrigued and I, a writer in search of approval, was hooked by their interest.

In subsequent weeks and months, I would sit quietly at my end of the critique table, my shoulders hunched (I never hunch!), my hand covering my mouth to hide a smile whenever they paid a compliment or busily taking notes when they offered suggestions to make my writing better.

Always their voices swirled in my head as I wrote:

Lisa would encourage me to play with whole paragraphs, perhaps this would be better if it came at the opening of the chapter, and move this to the middle.

Lynne would whisper to me about a character’s motivation, would he really behave that way?

Hannah always had me reaching for my copies of Strunk & White and Chicago Manual, the semicolon is probably the least utilized and most misunderstood punctuation mark.

And there was more, too many substantive critiques to account for here.

Now that I’ve completed my book, I often wonder if I would have continued on without the support given me by my writers’ group. They believed in me and my writing, and that’s a mighty powerful gift.

This much I know is true: Had they not been there every step of the way, it would not have become a manuscript I believe in too.