Thursday, December 21, 2006

Treated like a writer

A line or two from Lynne

I gave a lot of thought to how I would behave when it was my first time to receive feedback at writers' group. We'd already had one meeting, and I'd had the chance to see how the group might operate. Each person began with positive comments about the work being presented. When it came time for constructive feedback, it was exactly that--constructive. No barbs, or jabs. The writers' work was respected, yet critique and suggestions were thoughtful and deep.

Then it came time for me to send my pages. With twenty pages of a novel to my name, I knew I needed to do this, and I knew there would be feedback, lots of feedback. But I was fearful they wouldn't think I was a writer. Maybe I didn't really belong in this group of talented women. When I pressed the send button on the email that contained my work, I immediately wondered what they thought. Like a teenager dying to fit it, all day long I asked myself, are they reading it right now? More importantly, do they like it?

I'm the kind of person who usually dives into new learning situations but for once I consciously chose to hang back and see how this would play out. I was nervous when I arrived at our meeting one week later; I tried really hard not to show it. I knew Hannah, Lisa and Amy had enormous power that night. I prayed they'd use it wisely.

I still have the notes I made during that meeting. I scribbled away in my journal, my pen to paper keeping me pinned to my seat. They really liked my protagonist. They felt drawn into my story. Now for the constructive feedback. I chose a difficult story to tell. They struggled with the way I structured my story. One of the main characters was inaccessible.

I knew when I joined the group that from a fiction perspective, I was a novice. Lisa, Hannah and Amy never said I was, and though I'm sure they always knew it, that night they treated me like a fiction writer. They examined and discussed my work, never once comparing it to anyone else's. Never once judging it. Their feedback was and still is, a rich blend of the art and science of writing. Always aimed at making a piece better, stronger, more moving.

When I left that first meeting, I was energized. They'd had positive things to say about my work! The next day, I carved out time to edit those first pages and I wrote three more. I could do this, I thought. I could write and I could withstand the critique of my work. I was on my way.

Since that first meeting some fifteen months ago, I've finished telling my difficult story, I've made that main character complex yet likable and I've won the group over to my unusual structure. It never would have happened if during my first night of feedback in writers' group I hadn't been treated like a writer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


After reading the first line of your manuscript, I knew you were a writer. It never occurred to me to think otherwise.

Now that you've completed a beautiful novel (in addition to your parenting book!), everyone else will know, too.