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Writing, FF Sparks (Writing)

[Writing] Workshop Post-Mortem

Home from the workshop, or rather from the socializing at Azteca after the workshop. The socializing was good!

I got to talk to Scott, Ann, Louisa and lots of others who I hadn't really seen since Writers' Weekend. Saw some of the other Writer's Cramp folks. Made some good new ties, exchanged cards with folks. Discussed fanfic and backup career paths (assassin) with Anna Genoese and a bunch of others. (Alcohol and chocolate was involved on some sides of the convesration.) Was struck once again by how much Anna Genoese looks like she could be nlazarus's younger sister.

As for the workshop itself, unfortunately the way the critiques were being handled got altered due to extra sign-ups; everyone got one minute to give a critique on each of the other manuscripts they read, and then one of the Tor editors would take 5 minutes to give their critique. I was one of the last five submissions at the end of the day, so I got to spend most of the workshop in suspense. The advice was definitely still useful, even if with perhaps less in-depth discussion than I'd hoped for.

First, as background, I had planned to submit The Last Page as my thing to be critiqued, but about two weeks before the deadline I found out that no, TLP was ineligible because Tor had already solicited it. So rather than dig up and polish a short story, like a sane individual... I decided to write chapter one of a hypothetical Dream Wardens novel.

Now, in every other thing I've written in the Dream Wardens universe, I've written it pretty dark. There's a slight current of humor inasmuch as Tasha is, to put it mildly, a wee bit sarcastic when she's tired or stressed. But overall, it's a fairly dark world. And some of my pre-readers have commented on that and suggested that maybe a little bit of a comedic element to lighten it could help. So this time, I decided to try and include that. Now, perhaps it was stupid of me to try and write something that completely changes the feel of the Dream Wardens universe and to do so with a two-week deadline while still trying to finish a bunch of work-stuff and having a puppy to take care of. But I tried it anyway.

Because I am certifiably insane.

Unfortunately, pretty much every critiquer hated the comedic elements; the most common comments were about those, and 'have you considered just leaving this a plain dark urban fantasy?' Le sigh. And Beth Meecham, the Tor editor who critiqued it, said it was 'a little derivative of most popular urban fantasy,' and cited Rachel Caine, Jim Butcher, and a bunch of people I've never read. (Granted, I suppose I was kind of trying for that feel.) She added that this isn't necessarily a BAD thing, but something to keep in mind.

Still, I was feeling a little down about it. Not that I had expected rave reviews, but... well, last time I interacted with the Tor folks, they really, really loved the work and solicited it on the spot. So this still felt like a let-down.

But when I got home and unpacked all the critique copies, I finally sat down to read the full comments. There's a lot of places she pointed out that could use polishing, and a lot where it could be tightened. But she also added that the writing was very smooth and professional, and that even as it stands, it could probably be quite readily published if submitted to Ace instead of Tor.

So on balance, it's not that bad. Still, I think I may return the Dream Wardens to the original darker feel for the next thing I attempt in that world.

(And lord above, you'd think after a year and a half of tinkering with that world, I'd have produced SOMETHING workable in it. Instead, I have lots of rejection letters for short stories stating 'we LOVE the world! If you write more stories in it, we'd love to see them?' *grumble*)

EDITED TO ADD: I think why I was so disappointed was not so much their reaction; being told something /is/ probably publishable (even if by another house) is still a good thing. It's more that I had the whole day to wait, and to hear critiques of other manuscripts, and by the time mine came around, I had already sorted out in my head all the problems.

To hear them confirmed did at least signify to me that I have a grasp of where the problems in such a construct are, but didn't really do wonders to boost my esteem as a writer right now. Sort of an 'oh, god, my insecurities are real, my writing really is flawed' reaction. I know it's not really rational, and I know it will pass in the next few days, and I'll be plugging away on something again.


Tired, at any rate. Unpacking everything, then gonna settle in for the evening.

Comments

If you need any reader-type critiques of Dream Wardens, I offer my eyes. Mainly 'cos I remember loving the short story in that universe I read, the one from the PoV of the mentor guy.