Two years ago this past January I attended my very first Orange County Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. As I said in a blog before, the very first person I met was Christine. A couple weeks after that first meeting, a "Bootcamp" class started. It was my very first experience, outside of the normal OCC RWA meeting I had attended, to sit in a class setting and learn more about the craft of writing. Our first assignment was to bring the pages one through twenty of our manuscript.
So, of course like any green writer, I polished the first twenty pages to the best of my ability, took them in hand and practically skipped the fifteen miles to the hotel where we met. I remember being so proud to show off my amazing work to the published instructor, Shannon Donnelly. But, instead of her reading and critiquing, I soon found out we'd be separated into groups of three and reading our pieces out loud to our peers. I thought "Great! I'll show these ladies what a marvelous writer I am.". The first woman, Julie, read her piece. My confidence waned ever so slightly listening to her speak. Her story telling ability was amazing. I could totally picture what transpired on paper in my mind. When it came to be my turn to read, I grabbed all twenty pages in both of my hands, sat up straight, and began to read aloud.
Four pages in, I started to seriously doubt my earlier beliefs. Julie and Christine's (the other woman) eyes glossed over and they slumped in their chairs. By page ten, I began to receive audible sighs. It didn't help that Shannon would come over from time to time, listen to me receit my story, and scribble notes on the already-read pages. Soon, I no longer believed the beginning of my novel to be a masterpiece, but a masterful mess.
Yet, through it all, I learned a valuable lesson that day. To always be humble, and to admit when I know I need work in whatever area I choose to perfect myself in. As writers, we pour our emotions into our writing. Our stories become a part of us. To open ourselves up for criticism, even constructive, is a hard pill to swallow.
Over the course of the next six months, I attended this class six times. I typed pages upon pages of notes. When I was called upon in class for participation, I was determined not to let my emotions overrule sound reasoning. Looking back, the expierence was just what I needed in order to become a successful as an author.
I learned that when one person disagrees with me on something, I look at it as advice. When two people disagree with me, I need to look it over. When three people disagree, it is time for serious attention to the problem at hand. I recite this logic to myself every time I have someone critique my work. Without it, I wouldn't be the writer I am today.
This coming up Saturday is our monthly OCC RWA meeting. I'm looking forward to meeting with some girlfriends I met at OCC before the meeting starts for some good breakfast. I'm thankful to the organization in more ways than one.