Years ago, I was a member of a local writer’s group. It petered out, for reasons I do not remember. Since then, I have regularly met my cousin and writing mentor at Starbucks to write, talk about writing, brainstorm together and occasionally procrastinate together. Meeting Mark has been incredibly important to my development as a writer. His advice has been sound at every turn and, most importantly, his staunch belief in my talent has kept me going when I have wanted to give up.
While we reach each others drafts we rarely read in progress work, which is why I was excited to be invited to join a local writer’s group by a woman I met at the DFW Writer’s Conference. I attended my first meeting three weeks ago. The first two weeks the feedback was great. They loved my characters, voice and descriptions and had great suggestions for improvement. To say I went into this Monday’s meeting with an outsized amount of confidence I would receive more of the same is an understatement. I knew the section I was reading needed work and told them so before I started. I looked forward to their ideas on how to improve what I felt was a pretty rough patch but was still pretty good.
Then, I started reading.
About four pages in I stopped, looked at my group and said, “I’m bored. This sucks.”
They all looked a little sheepish, disagreed that it sucked but agreed that it was boring, contained too much description and would pull the reader out of the novel. Then, one of them said, “So far, this book is about a man’s first day on the job. Lots of meeting people. You need to drop him and the reader right into the action.”
Boom. What a great piece of advice. Advice I Knew, but apparently forgot while suffering from Description Diarrhea Syndrome. I was so caught up in describing the town, setting it up as the location of many more novels, creating the town as character, I forgot to tell this story, the story of Jack, Ethan and Ellie. I focused too much on the head and not enough on the heart.
The good news is the next day I wrote 2,250 words. The bad news is I haven’t written a word since. Life. What are you gonna do? But, I have constantly been thinking about these characters and their story and reminding myself the town will become the character I want when I show it through the characters’ eyes and actions.