A few weeks ago, I started a writing workshop and I was excited about, still am. We talked about goals, motivation and conflict, characterization, dialogue and things as simple as preparing a manuscript for submission. All incredibly helpful topics for a new writer like me, but the most terrifying and intense topic I had to overcome was reading my own work in front of the class. There has only ever been one person who has read anything I have written, my sister Pam. Her reactions are wonderful, to hear their excitement from reading your work, and wanting so badly to know what comes next is what every writer wants. It’s a great source of motivation, makes me want to finish what I start, but it’s the thought of getting the opinion of practical strangers that is so nerve wracking it terrifies me. Things such as, what will they say, will they totally hate it cross my mind, my class is very diverse as far as different writing styles and genres are concerned they write historical, sci-fi and romance. Therefore, it’s obvious their opinions will all be different, some will like what I write and others might just not get it…
Last Wednesday was my turn to read, we had previously gotten a crash course on critiquing and when I started read along with everyone else’s work and saw how wonderful their writing was, I had that moment when I doubt myself. I write romance, women’s fiction, chic lit, whatever you want to call it. I like to think it’s humorous and sarcastic, but most of all I like that my character has a great sense of humour, it is this humour that most people don’t get, therefore I was terrified. When my turn came, I was nervous as hell and felt extremely self-conscious about revealing a part me in a sense that I had never revealed to many before. Although I got through it as gracefully as I could manage, feeling relieved to have done it, then came the waiting. We are required to write notes on the copies of the manuscripts we hand out, this waiting seemed to take forever, and I mean forever! When the teacher instructed the class to begin the critiquing there was more silence, a sure sign nobody liked it or didn’t get it and had nothing to say, I wanted to walk out.
I want honest critique, I want someone to tell me what doesn’t work, this is the only way I will improve in my writing skills, but it’s scary to think that someone will read and disagree with your writing style and not to mention your chosen genre. What is worse is having that feeling that when I get home, I will feel compelled to, not only kill my baby as they say, but completely want to butcher it. After what seemed like an endless silence, that by the way lasted mere minutes, I got the positive feedback I was hoping to get. I made the suggested changes to the scene that make it flow better. I don’t know what I was expecting, but thankfully everyone was respectful of each other’s work and read each scene with an open mind. Next Wednesday I have to do it all over again and present the next scene, I will chew off nails that take an eternity to grow without a second’s hesitation, wait for the relief of having read reach me.
Have you read your work to others? What was it like? Help me, are there questions I should ask?