I’m preparing to “workshop” my novel. I’ve only had informal readings of my manuscript (which was early in the process) by a couple of people whose opinions I trust; and a review of several chapters by one of the faculty of the Johns Hopkins Masters in Writing Program. All the feedback was complimentary and useful, and two of the reviewers gave me specific guidance on structural problems of the novel–invaluable.
If selected for this workshop, I’ll join a small group of writers, all with works-in-progress, and we’ll offer up our “baby” for critique by strangers. On the face of it, each work will start with equal appeal, but as the group reads manuscript excerpts and gets to spend a lttle time with each work, the little bundles of joy will begin to reveal themselves as ‘having a good temperament’ and invoking smiles and baby talk or-God forbid-as ‘fussy’, prone to ear infections and tummy aches…this metaphor grows old and I know you get it.
I have to submit the first 30-pages of the manuscript with my application so, I’m tweaking the start of the story…again. In Stphen King’s book on writing he observes that writing needs time to age and advises the writer to put his/her manuscript away for six weeks at a time and then return to it–I’ve already had this trial separation with my novel a few times. But, I’ve returned to Homefront and it’s been very revealing how much more differently I see the writing after time away from the work.
If I’m lucky enough to participate in the workshop, I want to be particularly attuned to comments about pacing, story coherence and structure. The first 30 pages of my manuscript don’t place my characters in the primary setting of the book,–and that could be a problem. I’ll try not to be too overprotective and, closely monitored by me, let my novel interact with strangers.