I attended a writing workshop this weekend. Standard structure; moderator asked panel of published writers some questions about how they write, what advice they have, why they chose their genres. This was followed by a session where preregistered participants met for fast reviews by experienced writers or editors.
I had a review by an editor of erotic fiction. A cool opportunity for me, but I wasn’t planning to submit my erotica. Instead I took the money scene from my first novel-in-revision. The novel started as an investigation into three versions of creativity and how it manifests itself in different personalities, and then my central character interacted with each of them. At the end, she and one of the characters admit their love for each other. That is what I gave for review.
I know that I have a long ways to go in my craft of developing my writing style and ability but I have some difficulty determining how to get there. I took an introduction to writing fiction course but the teacher kept saying “you already know how to write, I don’t know why you’re here”. Comments like that are good for the ego but are not useful for improving my writing.
This review by the editor was different. First, I had some grammatical errors that I hadn’t noticed and corrected. Then she pointed out that there was very little “doing” and that large sections were either short sentences of dialogue exchange or long “spilling his/her guts” soliloquies. And the point of view was not obvious.
All in all a pretty harsh while remaining polite. About point of view I asked whether it was standard for this type of scene to have a definite first person perspective because I had used a very distant first person, almost third person viewpoint, and she said read some romances and yes, they are almost entirely definite first person viewpoints.
I hadn’t intended to write a romance with this novel. It was only because the central character had a relationship with the first version of creativity, declined a lesbian relation with the second, and entered into another relationship with the third that I felt that it ended up being a romance. A romance in name, if I had to force a genre label on it. I can understand mixing in some actions and description plus some first person emotional, physical, or thinking to further personalize or clarify the point of view, but are soliloquies so bad? Those are my favorite parts of much of Shakespeare, and I love it when DH Lawrence’s characters or Jubal Harshaw ramble on, especially at crucial moments. Mind you, Harshaw usually got interrupted or asked or was asked questions, unless he was thinking to himself, but there wasn’t a lot of physical activity during his proclamations.
So I can definitely re-write the section, trying to balance elements a little more and moving it to a more clearly and slightly deeper first person POV. Will it really be better? I don’t think that I can know that until I compare the results.
The other thing that comes out of the review experience is the blow to my ego. The person that I attended the workshop with said how their reviewer was complimentary and how that was good for their ego. I replied that mine was good for my ego as well since often I get pats on the back with little useful revision thoughts. On one hand my back is riled because I’m not sure that all of the comments are fully valid unless I’m trying to fit my writing specifically into the romance genre slot. Plus we all have a tendency to become defensive when our work is being criticized. I said that the review was good for my ego, but it still feels a little tender, more so than I expected.