However, what she wrote about my story stopped me from writing myself off as a writer who would have always wondered "What if...?"
Here's the quick backstory: I'd written a middle grades novel for NaNoWriMo of 2016. I'd done lots of research (it's historical fiction). I'd revised as I wrote, so I knew it was
Margo did not agree.
Here is some of what she suggested:
- Kill off one of your characters--literally. My main character has two younger sisters. Margo thinks I should get rid of one. Moving the story along doesn't require both of them, and it would make my story easier to tell. (Making this revision process less work? I'm all for that.)
- Cut scenes but delete nothing. She thought I should cut the unneeded scenes, but paste them into a file for possible later use. (For example, if in the future an editor says, "You need a scene right here where the main character is eavesdropping on his parents," I could let them know I already have one that I cut during an earlier revision.) After reading her critique and reflecting upon my story, I knew beyond a doubt Margo was right. My story has lots of unnecessary stuff in the first three quarters of the story... and then the last quarter is rushed through. (Yeah, I admit it. I did do that. I spent way too many pages setting up the story--which is the stuff I could write, and then hurried through the exciting part like it was an afterthought--because it was completely foreign soil for me as a writer and I didn't feel very confident when writing about it.) Which brings me to the next suggestion...
- Plan out the story. Divide it up into 3 acts. Create a story arc. Really? Are you serious, Margo? I'm a pantser, not a planner. I fly by the seat of my pants. Outlining my story? Creating a storyline? Making a tension graph? It's never been my modus operandi.) With very specific suggestions, she gave me the beginning of a plan. I had definitely yadda-yadda-yadded my way through a tension-filled historical event... and I'd managed to do it with only a whiff of tension and precious little excitement. (That takes true talent, right?)
Oh, don't get me wrong. Margo gave me lots of specific praise. The constructive criticism was just that--constructive. It was far from disheartening. In fact, the experience was energizing and validating.
I've now pasted her feedback to the beginning of my manuscript, to help keep me on track. I'm now excited over the prospect of completely revising my manuscript. I've even done some preliminary research to fill in my story's huge gaps.
And how did Margo stop me from writing myself off as a frustrated writer... as a writer who would always wistfully wonder What if ?
Well, if I keep the manuscript as is, due to my stubbornness/laziness/conceitedness, it will never ever get published. With
some lots of work, it has a chance...
Sioux Roslawski is now wearing a hardhat and is in the middle of taking a wrecking ball to her manuscript... which is okay, because when the construction tape is torn down, she'll (hopefully) have something shiny and pretty to shop around to various publishers. This summer she's teaching, but July is completely free. If you'd like to see more of her writing (if she ever writes a new post), check out her blog.