Includes a free snazzy writing feedback template!
In case you were wondering what happened to my promise of monthly updates with a post covering each session of my writing course, here is quick summary of events that will make it clear why this post is called Debrief: Session One (again). I experienced issues with my tutor and a little *drama with the course admin that I won’t go into here, although details have been filed away in my story ingredient pantry, on a shelf marked ‘stranger than fiction’. I continued to write in the midst of it all, editing my session one submission as best I could in lieu of a conversation with my initial tutor. The writing school responded to my complaints, assigning me a new tutor and the opportunity to start fresh from the beginning of session one. I resubmitted my revised work which included 600+ words of the opening chapter.
Although in this post I am capturing what happened with a revisit of session one, in real time I am at the start of session three.
To provide feedback, my tutor used a feedback template which I have paraphrased and adapted into one you can download and use (if you do use it, please retain the markings that credit the source, and if sharing, please share as a pdf, a link or a re-blog of this post).
If you are going it alone in the novel writing process, this template provides a great opportunity to pause and test the waters before going with the flow once again to reveal more of your story. It may help to take some time away from your writing before a review, or if you have willing friends, perhaps get them to read and give you feedback, but be wary of who you choose- you don’t want your spirit crushed or that pathological liar known as the inner critic to be validated. This is of course an iterative process – no novel is written in the first draft (I may be wrong, please let me know if you or someone you know has completed a novel in a single draft, if only so I can curse you/them and their good fortune).
The main feedback from my tutor on my opening was:
- Making the central dramatic question clearer. A fair point because I literally made the story up as I went along, with the structure in my head for reference. This was bound to be imperfect and require editing. The feedback from my tutor in this sense was important, since what was clear to me, with the aid of all the backstory in my head and in my detailed notes did not translate to what was accessible to a fresh pair of eyes.
- Scope to utilise inner dialogue and dialogue between characters to reveal the story. I struggle with writing dialogue, normally because I bore myself to tears, so this is an area needing work. She said.
- “Clarity over creativity”. It was telling that I had to explain the genre to my tutor. Although discouraged by this, feeling I lacked the ‘magic’ to put into realism, I could see that with some tweaking to ensure clarity of place, time and character motivation, there was still plenty of scope for magic that wouldn’t confuse the reader. In fact, the best magic realism I’ve read have a seamlessness between the magic and reality as I perceive it.
The hardest part of session one (again) was being struck by analysis paralysis with a resubmission of the same work (with some edits) to a new tutor and a whole new discussion covering essentially the same ground. Needing something fresh and a chance to create rather than respond to yet another set of suggestions, I broke out into some ‘procrastination writing’, suddenly finding the time to write and post micro-fiction. It proved to be a low effort/high reward activity— after all, I was still writing; I re-connected with my blogging community, which always lifts my spirits; and, I felt a creative spark with little time invested, just what Dr Muse ordered for a return to the stale novel I was avoiding.
*This is my 5th course with The Writers Studio and the only negative experience I have had. It has not changed my opinion of the value of the courses and the benefits I have derived from course material and teachings/feedback/encouragement from the excellent tutors I have had over the years.
What is your go to procrastination activity when you ‘should’ be working on your novel? Do you have a similar feedback/review template you use when editing your writing? If not, what is your approach? If you download and use the template, let me know how you find it.