Writer Recharge: A Meltdown and Refusing to Give Up

Writer Recharge

So, last week I felt in really good shape to meet my Writer Recharge goals. I’d had a number of trusted beta readers read through the first couple chapters of my WIP in preparation for my YA workshop at Djerassi. They all loved it and only had minor things I needed to fix.

Then came my workshop. The group liked my story—loved the idea of it actually—and really liked how I handled chapter 2. But once one writer made a suggestion to change an important part of chapter 1, everyone seemed to jump on board with rewriting the story. I know I should’ve been flattered that they cared enough about the story to want it to be as good as they thought it could be, but I walked away from the critique feeling like shit. Like the whole opening of the book was wrong and needed to change, which would change the arc of the characters and the story and the almost 60,000 words that came after. And I couldn’t understand why no one else who’d read it hadn’t told me how bad it was.

Then I went to my room and cried. And cried. And cried some more.

It was by no means a bad critique. The other writers were so encouraging and professional and downright lovely, not just about my pages, but about everyone’s pages all week. I couldn’t have been with a more supportive, wonderful group. I just didn’t know how to take their suggestions and make them fit with my vision of the story. I was overwhelmed. And the self doubt took advantage of me for a bit.

But what got me out of my funk and back to the keyboard was thinking about the Writer Recharge goal I made to finish the first draft this month. I didn’t want to let something that was mostly in my head keep me from reaching that goal. Or from finishing a story I love.

So, I went on a hike with Rebekah, who talked through some of the group’s ideas and then switched to fangirling and swooning over The Raven Boys when I wasn’t ready to face revisions yet, and I talked with some of the other girls over a couple glasses of wine and started to feel better about what I needed to do. And then I had my one-on-one with Nova. She was so patient and wonderful and laid out my first chapter on a table and helped me figure out what suggestions would work with my story and how I could change a few small things in the opening and rework one scene to add in some more tension. And I left that meeting with a new plan that fit so well with the story I wished I had thought of it sooner.

I still have about 10,000-12,000 more words to finish the draft and an opening chapter to revise/gut/rewrite, but I’m not willing to let this story go. Not now. Hopefully not ever.


19 thoughts on “Writer Recharge: A Meltdown and Refusing to Give Up

  1. Stephanie Scott says:

    A bittersweet week for you, then. That’s the tough part of writing, is hearing feedback that has a domino effect on the rest of the story. I’m glad you had a friend to sit down with you and hash out a plan. And really encouraging that you didn’t walk away when it was tough. Way to go! Much luck to you this week.

  2. I’m so glad you’re feeling better about your writing and story. Crits can be hard, no matter how kind the critiquers are. And self-doubt is an evil monster Good luck with your goals this week.

    • Thanks. Yes, crits can be hard. I should be used to them now, but I think b/c I admire these women so much it hit me harder than I expected. But I’m working through it all. Looking forward to a positive/happy post next week! 🙂

  3. What a tough week— but it sounds like you had some amazing people to hash things out with! When I went to my first writing conference I had a critique session where I left in tears too, like big, fat, rolling, tears. Looking back I know those tears were okay, they meant I cared deeply for my characters and story, and that is a beautiful place to be.

    • Yes, I had some amazing writers with me. And it helped that I know they cared about my story too. But in the moment, it never feels that way! So glad we’re able to pull through and stick with it!

  4. I guess one of the dangers of having writers critique your work is they want to suggest ways to re-write it. Heck, I’ve often thought of alternative (and, I think, better) plots for books I’m reading! I suppose we have to learn how to listen to criticism and separate what’s good for our stories and what’s not.
    I’m glad you were able to take the critique and make something good out of it, Susan. All the best to you this week!

  5. If you will permit, I know you don’t know me but a bit of advice: if you give a story to three writers and ask them what needs to be changed you will get three different opinions and usually all three sound sane. The trouble is, it is YOUR story. They cannot write it the way you are. So be very careful about changing universally unless you believe it is the right change to make. If you go home and spend hours crying- believe me, it is NOT the right change. I did make massive changes based on the opinions of 4 crit partners. It ended up in the garbage and I never did another thing with it. The changes ruined the story for me. It became this amalgam of all their ideas and none of mine. I hope you have a better week. Best! K

    • Thank you for the advice, Kim. It’s always good to remember that! It’s so hard to not want to rework everything in the moment when it all feels so heavy. But I agree, revisions need time and space to make sure they are the right thing for the story. I hope you go back to your story one day, even if it’s just to take another look and remember what you loved about it in the first place. 🙂

  6. Alison Miller says:

    WOW! Sounds like this retreat was awesome! How cool that you got a one-on-one with Nova! And I have been in that exact same spot – someone (or many people) trying to rewrite your first chapter. Critiques can be very helpful, but you know your story and your characters. And you have to do what’s right by them. It sounds like everything’s working out. I hope you continue to make progress and have an uplifting and productive week!

    • Working with nova was amazing. I’ve taken an online class with her before and just kinda fell in love with her. She’s doing a third session at Djerassi sometime next year. You should keep an eye out for it! It was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to everyone. I’m feeling so much better about my story now that I’ve had a little time to process it.

  7. Awe. Hugs. It is so hard to have your story criticized. Especially when it feels right to you. But I’m so proud you’re willing to take the criticism and go with it. Good luck on all of the work!

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