Only Words Bleed

Or: My first sucky experience at an IRL writing workshop.

Writers have a reputation for being socially awkward, and at least in my case, I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I’ve spent most of my life trying to limit my human interactions, but sometimes the little extrovert-troll claws its way out. I’ve been feeling strangely more validated as a writer lately (which turned out to be a false alarm) so I signed up for this writing group in the hopes of making new friends. And that didn’t happen. But I won’t name any names.

I’ve joined critique groups and partnered up with other writers online before, all with wonderful experiences and some amazing constructive feedback that’s helped me grow as a writer and as an internet troll. But this year, as part of my own goal to meet more people, I finally decided to attend a workshop in real life.

We all exchanged our full-length manuscripts two months in advance, and split into groups of 3. The other 2 novels I read were great, though not in the genre I normally read or write. However, I’m a prolific binge reader and can delve into any subject. The other two writers, on the other hand, were not fantasy readers, and admitted to not really getting the genre or my book in general. I get that. Fantasy writers are a different breed of humans. We exist in different universes where magic and dragons and aliens reign, and weird stuff happens. Lots of weird stuff.

One feedback I received was that the novel was perfect, and not to change a thing. I LOVE HEARING THINGS LIKE THIS. Except, not really? Because it’s not exactly constructive.

And the other feedback was just all over the place. The critiquer admitted to not being able to read parts of the novel for “personal reasons.” Which I kind of understand? But then why did you join a writing workshop when you knew you’d have to read a full manuscript in this type of genre? It just seemed a bit unfair–especially when we agreed to actually read each other’s manuscripts in exchange for in-depth critiques.

I’ll chalk my experience to a one-time deal, but probably won’t go back. Mostly because I don’t have anything ready to submit to a workshop yet.

But here are some things I learned.

I am meant to be forever alone.

Just kidding. But really, writing is a lonely, painful, high-impact sport.

And sometimes you gotta take the punches by yourself.

I still have so much more to learn.

Writing a novel is hard. Finishing a novel is near-impossible. Even things that are published never really seem complete. Just because I wrote this novel doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing or how to write the next one, or even how I wrote this one. There will always be more revisions, more rewrites, more improvements.

I need to stop taking myself so seriously.

Writing is fun. My novel is fun. Reading it should be fun. So I’m going to enjoy the process.