Last week I began a serious edit on one of my children’s stories and I have to say, it wasn’t as painful as I had first imagined. The story I’m working on is one I wrote over a period of three months around 18 months ago. During that time I was settling back into British life after two years of working abroad and each morning, as I travelled on public transport to a teaching job, I began to jot down story ideas which then led to story writing. It was time well spent and after a while I had my first children’s story (or so I naively thought!).
I was all ready to send the story to a well-known publisher when a coincidental conversation led to an invite to a critiquing group. I was terrified; printing out my story and posting it off was not nearly as scary as the thought of sitting face to face with a group of other writers as they gave their opinions. But I knew I needed to get out of my comfort zone so I accepted and went along, story in hand.
It was quite an experience; a good one on reflection and certainly a baptism of fire to the publishing world. The group were all experienced writers and some were published so the feedback was thorough. For a newbie on the scene, with a sensitive disposition, it came as quite a shock. When one of the critics lifted up her copy of my story to show long strikes of biro through four consecutive stanzas (the story is told through rhyming verse), I very nearly ran from the library and gave up before I’d begun. Of course, I didn’t. As hard as it was to listen as others ‘Murdered my darlings’, I stayed the course and did my best stiff-upper-lip act for the duration of the session.
It’s taken me a year to get back to that story. A year of starting many new stories and trying to pretend that the other one didn’t need my attention. But the truth is, it does need my attention and the reality is, what I had really finished was the first draft. Naivety mixed with optimism meant that when I took the story to the critique group, I was brought back to Earth with a bump and it’s taken me a while to realise but I am grateful for the experience.
Some of the comments were helpful, some weren’t but overall I learnt a lot from dipping my toes and as time goes on, I feel more able to listen to people’s thoughts and opinions about my darlings and I’m even considering braving it again….I’ll let you know how that goes!
For now, I must get back to the editing which means bracing myself to delete the words that don’t move the story along, making room for the ones that do.