My first story crit with the Cajun Sushi Hamsters was last week Sunday. I uploaded my story early, before my bravery died — it’s hard to bleed on the page then put that grief on the line with ‘the big dogs’ for the first time. That’s how it felt to me.
The story is the one that hit me the first time I walked on the bridle trails after my dog died. (Read about that in this post.) It took a long while to write since so much of it was close to me: dogs, death, heartache and bittersweet joys. And I wanted to get it ‘just right,’ in memory of my beloved dog. I also didn’t want to look like a complete goober in front of my new writing group.
It was the first story of the night, and you can imagine my tension as I wondered, feared, expected … who knows what? Was it a mess of over-wrought emotions? Did the story even work? Would they hate it? Yes, even now, I have those fears. I have, though, managed to choke them down and listen to the wiser part of me that knows I need the clear-eyed criticisms of well-meaning professionals to make my stories the strongest they can be. Especially stories like this one, which hovers so close to my heart.
The short of it is, they liked it. Everyone offered ideas on how to make it stronger, better and more salable. But the story as it stood made most of them cry, as they themselves reported. That made me weak-kneed and giddy; I made these people cry! These writers. Cried. At my story. What a sense of awe.
And relief, as now I know a bunch of ways to make it better. They helped me find things I sensed were missing, suggested how to add them. They helped me find things I hadn’t thought of, bits that are pure genius. And they pointed out things to drop or to change, things that just aren’t working. Finally they pointed out what was good, what not to change. Not all the suggestions are compatible with all the others, but that’s were my judgement comes back into play.
While I ponder these ideas before more editing, more relief: my hubby is back home after three weeks away. Three weeks doesn’t sound long, but it was. It makes me wonder how the various Clarionites and Odyssiers manage six weeks. Even so, I’m hoping I find out. 🙂