This week on the Debutante Ball, in celebration of the winter solstice, we are writing about the dark times of writing–moments when we thought about quitting or let our doubt get in the way.
Recipe for an unfinished novel
1 work in progress
1 workshop, preferably your first one
1 bag of peanut M&Ms
1 famous author/instructor
1 bullying workshop attendee
8 other workshop students
1. Read aloud five pages. You want to speak slowly and clearly.
2. Take notes as the students say vaguely nice things about the setting. Don’t be concerned if it takes a little while for the conversation to get going.
3. Don’t get burned if the conversation comes quickly to a boil when a bullying student first talks about why he hates your story, and then goes on to criticize you personally for writing the characters the way you did.
4. Watch the instructor carefully to see if he will turn the conversation into a more productive critique. He doesn’t.
5. Temper the need to cry with a distraction like eating the peanut M&Ms you brought as a snack for the class. Don’t offer to share.
6. Let the conversation boil over for 20 minutes, your allotted critique time.
7. Have the instructor mention to you privately during the break that maybe the bully’s take wasn’t accurate.
8. Tell yourself you need to develop a thick skin, that being a writer means being able to take feedback.
9. Receive a well-meaning email from one of the other workshop students who remained silent during the critique saying that she liked your piece.
10. Let the anger, doubt, insecurity and confusion about your work fester while your Word file sits dormant on your laptop. I recommend six months.
And voila! An unfinished novel!
Variation—If you don’t like the taste of an unfinished novel, remember what you love about your story, open your Word file, and get back to work.