A few days ago I joined a critique circle. I did it simply to test the waters before sending my MS off to my editor. I was curious how my story would sink in with the masses at large and of course I had the normal questions.
I received a very sweet, thoughtful crit from a member who likened my writing to “the classics“…something in my passage reminded her of the flowery, poetic prose of old world literature. The reviewer asked me if I read a lot of classics–and no, I don’t. Actually, I’ve never read even one–and can’t remember reading any in school either, though I’m sure at some point I did. I write in my voice, which is all I genuinely know how to do. I guess I don’t sound like other authors…
It got me wondering–is being classical a bad thing? The reviewer made it out to seem like that wasn’t good–an a-typical thing. Modern books have a certain flow that mine doesn’t. I don’t jump right into the story…I inch it along. Of course, what she saying was based on the first 4,000 words of a 94,000 word manuscript. But, what she took fault in was my goal all along…
I wanted to weave a tapestry. Several multi-hued threads stitched together to create the story of a family.
I begin with a prologue. It’s not a dream, it didn’t happen far before, it’s a white hot flash of the future. I felt, when I was writing, that that was the natural beginning…the shift of life…to go there, then back and work towards it again…felt…it felt natural. From that place, the prologue, you join Jenna on the worst day of her life. But we don’t jump right into the thick of it. I wrote it so that getting to know Jenna was a full circle experience–where she’s been and where she’s going. She becomes a round person…hopefully, when it counts, a reader will identify with her, will know her and understand her.
Then, I read I was classical. What if classical is an synonym for bad. What if everything this book is just doesn’t jive with the exceptions of a modern day reader? What if I was born a century to late to be relevant?
I could have started the book differently–I could jumped right in with both feet and spelled it out, plain and simple to the point…but that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell–that’s not who I am, that’s not how I write.
I can’t change that. It’s my voice–you can’t just change something that’s so natural. Can you? I really don’t know.
I guess the lesson is this:
Write for yourself. Tell the story your way. It’s not going to be everyone’s favorite–and that’s just plain a-ok. As long as the effort is genuine and honest, you can’t harbor regrets in what you could have done differently.
I know there will be changes to my MS coming. I’m going into the editing process with my eyes wide open, and every critique I manage to accumulate will go to good use as well. But I have to stay grass roots. I have to keep on keeping on–because this is the book I wrote, this was story that needed to be told.
Here’s to being classical me…or whatever it is I am…