Tamika asked about one of the workshops I attended at the Muse Online Writers Conference. She was interested in “Write Tight as Granny’s New Girdle” by Margot Finke.
There weren’t actual lessons in this workshop. I was a little disappointed in that. However, what totally made up for the lack of lessons was a critique of my first page. This woman was B-U-S-Y. She had so many first pages to go through plus she hosted three chats. Unfortunately, I can’t post any of that information here. That’s one of the rules of the conference. But, if you ever have a chance to take one of Margot’s workshops, go for it.
I recently took another online course where the instructor critiqued this same first page. She shredded the scene, which surprised me because my crit group liked it. This bothered me, but not because someone didn’t like my work. (I have developed thicker skin than that.) What bugged me was the advice this industry professional gave to me. Everything she said in that critique went against anything I’ve learned the past two years. The biggest part was that she told me to cut my dialogue/action tags. ALL of them.
I took a closer look at that page and removed a couple of the tags, but that’s all I could afford. The others revealed character traits or reactions. (These aren’t the typical “said” or “asked” tags.) Without this info, the scene is flat. However, since this woman is an industry professional, I figured she must know, so that crushed me. How could I trust anything I’ve learned so far if none of it is worth anything in the real world? Yeah, I was kind of bummed and discouraged. My muse packed her bags and left while I dealt with this information all by myself. Thanks a lot, Muse.
When Margot offered to critique our first page, I couldn’t resist. I sent her the same words I’d sent to my other instructor. What a difference. Sure, there were little changes I could make to tighten, but Margot didn’t share the other instructor’s opinion of my first page. She didn’t seem to have a problem with any of the tags.
Does that mean the first instructor was wrong and that Margot was right? Maybe. Maybe not. I think what it tells me more than anything is that writing is very subjective. What some people might love, others will hate. There’s nothing we can do about that. We just have to accept that’s the way it is. And we can remember this when we get rejections. Just because that agent/editor didn’t like our story, doesn’t mean the next one won’t.
Don’t give up. Keep plugging away at your writing and submissions. Some day, you’ll be rewarded for your hard work.
And then the real work begins. ;)
Have you had an experience like this where people had totally different opinions of your work? How did you deal with the mixed message?