It’s all about the timing: Critique groups

From mid-October to mid-December I submitted the first six chapters of my work-in-progess (tentatively titled ‘Parse’) to a virtual writers workshop.

I’m not sure if it was or was not a success. The feedback on the first two chapters was positive, but the subsequent chapters were universally panned. For my last submission I revised chapters 3-4, and the feedback was slightly more encouraging.

This post isn’t about the other participants in the workshop, nor about their feedback. It’s about the result of the feedback on my progress on the manuscript.

I’ve stopped writing. 

It’s not “writer’s block”, which I don’t believe in. I’m discouraged and doubtful about the entire concept of the story, so I’m letting it sit and listening to the back of my brain whisper to me about characterization, tension, and plot point timing. I hope I’ll get past this and start writing soon.

I think, after considerable reflection, the manuscript was too young to send out to play. The story needed more revisions, more seasoning, and simply more time. Before I finished my first novel I had years of unsuccessful attempts to finish stories and I discovered describing the plot to anyone, friend or foe or chance met in an elevator, was the certain kiss of death. 

Parse isn’t dead. But it has certainly been retarded in its growth. Now that the holidays are over I hope I can get past this problem and start writing again, even if it means tossing out 2/3 of the existing manuscript. I’ve done more violent edits to other manuscripts in the past and the finished book survived the experience.

But I’ve learned to be cautious about if and when I put a manuscript out for critique. If you’re a writer like me, think twice. I jumped at the critique workshop chance when it came around. What I didn’t do was ask myself if the current manuscript was ready for it. Negative criticism comes to us all, but we should only ask for criticism when we have something worthy to show. Otherwise, you’re simply setting yourself up for failure.