Honing the craft

I’m so happy my writing class is back in session. I volunteered to turn in pages at the first class last week, so last night I got to hear great feedback and advice from my teacher and classmates. I already was inspired deeply by last week’s class and the suggestions I got for rewriting a short scene I read aloud. I rewrote it the next day, even before I got an email from the teacher asking me if I’d like to rewrite it and read the revised scene at last night’s class. So I got feedback on that scene as well as the 13 pages I handed in last week.

What’s so rewarding is the feeling that I’m hearing things that will actually make me a better writer. For a long time, I’ve felt like that’s what I’m missing. I get lots of positive feedback at work, but nothing that will help me grow.

I can see that other students take criticism hard, like what they’re hearing is that their story sucks or they don’t know how to write. I don’t hear that, though. I hear, “This is an interesting story, but it bothers me that the character does this,” and “What would make this scene better would be this.”

I think my dialogue is pretty good, but have discovered a weakness in scenic depiction. So after I rewrote my scene, I went through and noted a few places where I could add more visual description. One of my classmates noted that I do have good scenic description but it’s mutually exclusive from the great dialogue. “Often when the characters are speaking, I have a difficult time imagining the scene because I’m not sure what they’re doing.” Astute.

The chapter I turned in was about mixed martial artists who infiltrate a dog fighting ring and rescue four of the losing pit bulls. A classmate who is new this quarter noted, “I like what you are doing even though I detest dog fighting and am opposed to martial arts. Try to win me over!” Uh, no. First of all, this is not a pro-dog-fighting story. Second of all, who’s opposed to martial arts?? Sorry, sir, you’re not my target audience.

Another new student, a older fellow, told me he though the dog fighting stuff was “just fantastic,” and that he thought the people in the audience were probably a lot of crumb bums. The villain in the piece, the guy who brings my heroes to the fights, “he seems like a real crumb bum.” Love it.