Friday, June 15, 2012

My First Day at Writing Class

I wrote a few weeks ago about having lots of ambitious plans for the next year - in addition to writing - that all fell through when I remembered my husband's job requires a lot of travel.  I clearly have selective memory - I thought that was just him. 

His summer travel got pushed back, and I was able to sign up for a writing class at the last minute.  It's not a normal class where they teach technique, but more of a formalized writing group.  The last time I went, the group was a little dysfunctional. 

Everything about this class depends on the group dynamic.  There's nothing individual about it.  It's all about sharing your work and getting feedback that's useful.  If the energy of the group is low or there's that one person that isn't thrilled to be there, it's just not good.

When I checked in, a person I had previously attended three classes with only a year ago talked to me like I was brand new.  I thought maybe she was just taking her check-in-person role too seriously.  Then she said, "Nice to meet you."   I reminded her I had attended several classes with her.  She said something like, "Oh, huh."  Immediately I had a sinking feeling I had just thrown a big wad of money out the window of a moving car.  Did I mention there's no refunds if the class sucks?

But when the class started and the conversation began, everyone was very positive - even Ms. Nice-To-Meet-You.  In the small group, I got paired with people I had never met.  I was the only one that brought fiction. One had a memoir and another had something that was more of an essay. 

I brought the first chapter of my last novel - the one where I got great reviews from two beta readers and one that was really harsh.  I asked the group for feedback on the specific details that my beta reader found objectionable, and I told them - and meant it - that I was OK if they hated it.  I needed to know if this is the novel I need to put back in the drawer.

As I read, they all started laughing out loud.  It's a dark comedy, and I wasn't sure if that was apparent in the first chapter.  The more I read, the more they laughed.  I read for twelve minutes, and they kept laughing.  Yay!!  *burst of confetti and streamers*

I am so much more confident now that 5 out of 6 readers loved it.  I finally feel like I'm ready to start writing query letters.  I feel like I'm a writer - like I'm going to get my novels published - and that some (not all) readers will laugh out loud while they're reading it.  If that's only a handful of people, the effort was worth it.

I feel like I'm bragging if I share this with anyone else (besides my immediate family).  It's great to know I have a community (you) in which I can share my successes and know that everyone will be cheering with me.

24 comments:

  1. See? Ignore the one who really didn't like it. There will always be someone who doesn't get it. Now you know you are on track.

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  2. Hi, Tonja! I'm popping over from Katie's Bloffee.

    I'm really bad at linking faces and names, so go ahead and forgive Ms. Nice-to-Meet-You. Hopefully she'll remember you this time!

    If 5 out of 6 people liked the chapter, then you can probably assume you're on the right track. Some people don't get dark humor, but this person's reaction/comments can be useful too if they help you tweak things here and there.

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    1. You're absolutely right about Ms. Nice-To-Meet-You. I agree about the tweaking too. Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  3. Well done for asking for real feedback! There is no such thing as a book that everyone loves, all you need a good percentage to impress the right agent. And you're not bragging, you're sharing!!!

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    1. The good thing about this class/group is we ask for the type of feedback we want. I believe we should write for the people that get what we write. There's no way to please everyone.

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  4. Yay! The laughing must have felt great - especially after your greeting. ;) I'm stopping by from Katie's Bloffee. I hope the class continues to be worthwhile for you!

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    1. The laughter was AMAZING!!! Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Tonja, that's awesome you were able to ask for what you needed and got such great feedback. Congratulations.
    Karen

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  6. That's great! I really need to find a group like this myself. Good luck with the rest of the book

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    1. There were over 1000 writers participating in NaNoWriMo in just one segment of the area I live in. And this is the only writing group I've found where the philosophy isn't to destroy fellow writers with critiques. One other group literally brags about how harsh they can be. Awesome.

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  7. That's really cool. Congratulations on finding that kind of environment. I took a writing class once, and only lasted three sessions. 5/6 and a lot of laughter is a big win!

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    1. Ash-Matic, I am so glad you stopped by here because your post was absolutely hilarious. I bow down before you. And share you on facebook (not that I have many friends, but I think my few friends do).

      It absolutely felt like a win.

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  8. I'm so glad that your class turned out to be good. Sometimes you can't tell until you get started with it. Good luck with the rest of the book!

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    1. That is very true. Especially because it's a class that isn't a class. There's nothing to be gained that doesn't come from the interaction with the other writers. Thanks. :)

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  9. I'm so glad you made it back to circle.

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    1. Thanks, Blue. Loved the facilitator.

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  10. Just remember everyon has an opinion and you can't please the whole world. It will all be good. You'll see.

    Shelly
    http://secondhandshoesnovel.blogspot.com/

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  11. Good for you Tonja! I often compare my writing to brussels sprouts; some like them and some don't. I just keep moving forward, while looking for the ones who like it. Glad you found some brussels sprout lovers. Have fun with the rest of the story.

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  12. So glad that it went well for you!! Keep it up, and know that you have support online as well.

    I smile remember the first writers group I ever went to, I was depressed at the time and read them my sad emo poetry while the group members sat in silence, shifting uncomfortably in their chairs. Good times! :)

    Andrea

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  13. I'm with you - it's a wonderfully heartening thing when people dig your work as much as you do...it's the kind of encouragement we need to persevere. So yay, you!

    Hey, I've nominated you for 1 - 3 awards! (You're eligible for all, but since they require some work on your part, I thought I'd let you pick the award of your choice.) Click here to go to my blog and claim it/them!

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  14. Hi Tonja, I clicked over from Milo's. Nice to meet you. I enjoyed reading about your writing group experience. I've been to several great writing classes (and a few duds). When you find one that works it is very exciting. So glad you got good feedback and they laughed. Awesome!! =)

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  15. You are brave to go to a writing class. Sorry about a few bad aspects, but at least you got some great feedback. This is really great for you!

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