Oh boy, this was such a good experience. It stretched my understanding of what I could achieve, taught me that writing is not a solitary exercise, showed me the real value of a good editor, and produced a piece of writing that I am extremely proud of.
What I Can Acheive
I had no idea what Writer in Motion would lead to when I threw my hat in the ring. I didn’t know Jeni Chappelle or K.J. Harrowick, I simply saw an event that I thought would be fun and butted in. Turns out they and everyone else involved are wonderful, talented, and supportive people who created an environment where creativity could blossom. I missed the first week, but had a very sloppy first draft ready for the next, even if I didn’t quite know what to do with it.
The prompt for that first draft was a bit of a gift for me. I live in an Atlantic province in Eastern Canada where the ocean is really never more than an hour’s drive away. I knew the environment of the prompt, an old boat beached on sand bars, in my bones. My current WIP is a novel about a girl who lives on the ocean, so she was dumped right in the middle of the piece. What I came up with had potential, but wasn’t much more then a scene.
The next week was a self-edit and boy, if I hadn’t had to write the second draft, I would simply have abandoned it. I had no idea what to do. I thought about it as I did errands, played with and abandoned ideas, and finally simply sat down to write whatever came into my head. That worked. I got somewhere, and in that process I learned that I don’t need to sit on my ass and wait for inspiration; I can apply some elbow grease until a story works. In my rather half-assed approach to writing, that’s a revelation.
Good Writing is Not a Solitary Experience
Nope, not even a little bit. Look, I’m sure there are some rare geniuses out there who can manage to construct a brilliant story with no outside output, but most of us are not that writer. I am definitely not! My critique partners for the next step were the marvelous Fariha Khayyam and Belinda Grant and the feedback they offered was absolutely essential to making my writing work. They pulled off my blinders and questioned any weak spot they found, helping me go from an unpolished pile of words to something that I finally began to feel satisfied with. In the process, they also became friends, and I sincerely hope that those two relationships are ones I will carry with me in my writing journey.
But beyond Fariha and Belinda, I found a whole group of people who gave me encouragement and support. I’m tempted to think kind words aren’t needed when I’m writing, but honestly, it’s like the candy that kept Hansel and Gretel walking their path. When someone says something wonderful about what I wrote, there’s nothing more motivating, so yes, thank you to everyone who did that for me.
Good Editing is Wonderful
I had no idea. Okay, I had some idea. My oldest is a gifted editor so they’ve been helping me since I started writing again, but sometimes they’re a little too close to my pieces. I discuss ideas, characters, what I want to accomplish… the distance needed for a clear view is a little harder to gain when your client is your mom. But then Maria Tureaud gave my story a going over and wow, what a feeling.
It wasn’t what I was expecting. I submitted my story to her feeling like I had taken it to where it needed to be in terms of development and structure, but I’m a homemaker with a high school diploma in a group of accomplished people, so what did I know? Turns out I knew exactly what I was doing. Maria’s notes were extremely positive. She said she had no developmental feedback for me. I would have been extremely happy with a critique that took apart my story and helped me put it back together again, and I have no doubt I will get lots of those sorts of critiques in the future, but this was the one I needed right then. It was confirmation that I could be a decent judge of my own work, and it gave me a kind of confidence I’m going to bottle up and keep beside me as I go forward. I’m extremely thankful to Maria for that gift.
I keep rereading Written in Sand. I have other stories I’m proud of, but this one feels polished in a way I’ve almost never accomplished before. It’s also given me a theme for my next book about Lil and the confidence to trust myself as I write the first draft of her story. It’s also helped me remember that short stories are a strength for me, and while writing novels is something I intend to keep pursuing, short stories are just as important.
It’s also given me a community of people I feel absolutely sappy about. I will go forward knowing that everyone involved in Writers in Motion has had a hand in my writing journey and being thankful that I’ve had a chance to be a part of theirs.