Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Leave your ego at the door.

Potential cover for the possible novel I may or may not be writing. 
A while ago, I told you about an incredible opportunity I was taking to learn more about writing fiction. A one-week "writers' camp" led by Gail Anderson-Dargatz. It's mere weeks away now, and I'm getting nervous.

I'm nervous for two reasons:

  1. I have to submit a 5,000-word manuscript next week, a month before camp starts. Enough time for all of the participants to read and draft some critical notes before the first day.
  2. We will be "workshopping" each submission.

I don't know where my head was at when I signed up, but it seems I thought we would receive a writing assignment each day, go home, write the required piece, then Gail would give us (written) feedback on our efforts the next day while we worked on a new assignment. Sounds like a high-school course, doesn't it?


Fortunately, Gail has been teaching and mentoring for a while and has set up an online forum for participants to get to know each other and understand the workshop expectations well ahead of time. My mind kind of boggled when I read:
You'll post one submission of up to 5,000 words in the submission area before June 15.
I've never paid much attention to the length of my fiction pieces, but I was working on a piece that I thought might, possibly become a novel. I thought it might be long enough, so I checked. I had it pegged at two chapters, so it must be too long, right? Nope. 2,500 words all together.

Before I started to add to it, however, I went back and edited what was there. And then I slept on it. And by "sleep" I mean "wrote it in my head while I was trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep." I ended up getting out of bed and scribbling notes on a scrap of paper.

A day or so later, I actually wrote the new sections (and supplemental ideas) that I had conceived. It is now at 4,956 words.

The problem is that it ends with what is either a climax (if it's a short story) or a cliffhanger (if it's a novel).
If your project is a novel, please include a very brief outline, of no more than a page in point form, to orient us.
Where I'm stuck is that I'm not sure whether it's good enough to be a short story, let alone a novel. I've started (and abandoned) writing two novels here on this very blog. Should I start small? Or should I go for the whole cake?


My next stumbling block is the concept of receiving feedback from a whole group of established authors. I mean, some of these are not only published authors, but they teach creative writing. They've attended many workshops like this one, they have Masters degrees in writing, for god's sake.

Though I've spent my life with a pen or keyboard close to hand, I've never had any of my fiction published.

Basically, I feel very outclassed, like a freshman in a senior class. But, so be it.

As a self-preservation move, I actually put a call out to my Facebook friends to give the draft a read-through. They are, of course, too kind to be really critical, but I was happy to get some preliminary feedback, and it helped boost my confidence. (Shout out to: Paula, Maureen, Martha, BJ, Allison, Tracy, Pat, and Joan.)

I had almost titled this post, "Leave your vulnerability at the door," but changed my mind because I don't think that's possible, and I also don't think it's wise. As Brene Brown points out, vulnerability is powerful (see video below; it's worth watching).

So my plan is to go into this with an open heart and mind, willing to listen and learn from others who have already put themselves out there and still feel like they, too, have something to learn.


  1. What an amazing opportunity!! Would love something like this. Of course I'd be terrified beyond reason too. I have always been writing in journals since I was young, and now blogging. Although I've always leaned towards poetry as opposed to stories. but now I am changing to stories and I am in panic mode when I think of anyone reading them! but still, such a great chance to learn and grow.

    1. I guess I wasn't really conscious of what "workshop" meant. Or that all the other students would be published authors. *breathe*


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