Debrief: Session One (again)

Prairie dog (ground hog) used to illustrate a post on repeating a component of a third draft novel writing course.

Includes a free snazzy writing feedback template!

In case you were wondering what happened to my promise of monthly updates with a post covering each session of my writing course, here is quick summary of events that will make it clear why this post is called Debrief: Session One (again). I experienced issues with my tutor and a little *drama with the course admin that I won’t go into here, although details have been filed away in my story ingredient pantry, on a shelf marked ‘stranger than fiction’. I continued to write in the midst of it all, editing my session one submission as best I could in lieu of a conversation with my initial tutor. The writing school responded to my complaints, assigning me a new tutor and the opportunity to start fresh from the beginning of session one. I resubmitted my revised work which included 600+ words of the opening chapter.

Although in this post I am capturing what happened with a revisit of session one, in real time I am at the start of session three.

To provide feedback, my tutor used a feedback template which I have paraphrased and adapted into one you can download and use (if you do use it, please retain the markings that credit the source, and if sharing, please share as a pdf, a link or a re-blog of this post).

Click to download

If you are going it alone in the novel writing process, this template provides a great opportunity to pause and test the waters before going with the flow once again to reveal more of your story. It may help to take some time away from your writing before a review, or if you have willing friends, perhaps get them to read and give you feedback, but be wary of who you choose- you don’t want your spirit crushed or that pathological liar known as the inner critic to be validated. This is of course an iterative process – no novel is written in the first draft (I may be wrong, please let me know if you or someone you know has completed a novel in a single draft, if only so I can curse you/them and their good fortune).

The main feedback from my tutor on my opening was:

  • Making the central dramatic question clearer. A fair point because I literally made the story up as I went along, with the structure in my head for reference. This was bound to be imperfect and require editing. The feedback from my tutor in this sense was important, since what was clear to me, with the aid of all the backstory in my head and in my detailed notes did not translate to what was accessible to a fresh pair of eyes.
  • Scope to utilise inner dialogue and dialogue between characters to reveal the story. I struggle with writing dialogue, normally because I bore myself to tears, so this is an area needing work. She said.
  • “Clarity over creativity”. It was telling that I had to explain the genre to my tutor. Although discouraged by this, feeling I lacked the ‘magic’ to put into realism, I could see that with some tweaking to ensure clarity of place, time and character motivation, there was still plenty of scope for magic that wouldn’t confuse the reader. In fact, the best magic realism I’ve read have a seamlessness between the magic and reality as I perceive it.

The hardest part of session one (again) was being struck by analysis paralysis with a resubmission of the same work (with some edits) to a new tutor and a whole new discussion covering essentially the same ground. Needing something fresh and a chance to create rather than respond to yet another set of suggestions, I broke out into some procrastination writing, suddenly finding the time to write and post micro-fiction. It proved to be a low effort/high reward activity— after all, I was still writing; I re-connected with my blogging community, which always lifts my spirits; and, I felt a creative spark with little time invested, just what Dr Muse ordered for a return to the stale novel I was avoiding.

Read Debrief: Session One

*This is my 5th course with The Writers Studio and the only negative experience I have had. It has not changed my opinion of the value of the courses and the benefits I have derived from course material and teachings/feedback/encouragement from the excellent tutors I have had over the years.


What is your go to procrastination activity when you ‘should’ be working on your novel? Do you have a similar feedback/review template you use when editing your writing? If not, what is your approach? If you download and use the template, let me know how you find it.

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15 thoughts on “Debrief: Session One (again)

  1. I wish I could offer something useful… I use distractions to help me focus – my writing space has several musical instruments, which I’ll pick up from time to time. And there are the books, of course, and the windows. It seems that when I concentrate on something else for a while, I’m able to return to what I’ve been working on with renewed vigor. Goofy, but there it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that renewed vigor is great. Maybe ‘procrastination’ has too many negative connotations. Perhaps we should call it a redirected focus. Yes, you are pretty goofy but that’s what makes you you, and that is a good thing 🙂 How is that new instrument going?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been doing a lot of freelance writing, as you know. Every time I get stuck, I start looking at my emails or Facebook. Also, definitely familiar with the clarity over creativity thing. I’ve had to cut out a lot of ideas I really liked because i was at a loss for how to express myself clearly.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds as if both the editor and tool have been useful for you Mek. For me, I generally read and re-read several times. With the Unhappy Wife book, I read different pieces of advice, such as not using adverbs or deleting “the” as much as possible and then I’d edit for those in order to make the writing much tighter. I usually don’t ask someone to read it, unless I absolutely have come to an impasse with what I can do. I use a paid editor if I plan to sell my work.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. At this stage, just my tutor has used that template to give me feedbsck but I answer many similar questions in the course work, getting to the bottom of what is driving the characters, what their values are, conflict etc…the focus here being more on story than language/grammar for much of the time. Thanks for sharing your approach…always good to know hiw other writers work 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Work in Progress
  5. Hi Mek, Happy New Year! I have one of those pantries with a stranger than fiction shelf, LOL. Some things are so odd that people would never believe it actually happened. I can procrastinate doing absolutely anything to avoid real work, ha ha….even cleaning house. I’m good like that. I don’t use any templates or formulas for writing. I come up with an idea and I re-read until I think it sounds like a story. I really think the best thing for people who want to write is to read. Read the best books in the genre you want to write. Read the best literature and authors of the past. Then write and write and write. I do love the blogging community also, and it forces me to write something almost every day, or when I’m not distracted by dust particles gathering on my coffee table, LOL. Hope you had happy holidays with your family 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy New Year Lana! Haha yeah, that shelf is great for story inspiration. Housework can definitely become appealing when there are other pressing things to do, but housework is often pressing in my house…how does one procrastinate from housework?? This wasn’t a template for writing, just for editing and reviewing, ensuring story clarity and character development etc. As for formulae, most books and films do follow a clear set of turning points and hsve a character arc and central dramatic question…then within those boundaries there is ample room for a creative take on one tet another variation of the human experience. I agree, reading a lot is essential, but also across genres. The holidays gave been fun and are still not over here. Hope you gad a great one too…looking forward to the stories and poems you’ll share in 2018 xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes for sure, housework rather drags on us. Story clarity and character development are two important factors for sure. When you finish your writing course, will you have a complete novel? It all sounds quite interesting. I can’t really motivate myself to read outside my interests maybe because I have such little time to do so. I’m hoping to keep on in 2018, I’ve managed a few posts this month. I really like being in contact with other creative people on WordPress since I don’t live in a place with writer’s groups, book functions, etc. Happy writing!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. “I may be wrong, please let me know if you or someone you know has completed a novel in a single draft, if only so I can curse you/them and their good fortune.”

    *rolls with laughter* I’m with you on this one.

    Confession: I’m a person of extremes. On one hand, I can be lazy and a procrastinator. On the other hand, when I’m in the zone or start working on something that excites me, don’t interrupt me unless you’re on fire. I will just go on and on and on working.

    My procrastination activity is to find something to tweak on my website or work on some other creative activity. Or take a nap.

    Thanks so much for the template. I’m sure it will be a huge help when I get to that stage.

    Hope everything works out for the best with your new tutor.

    Like

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