Take a Deep Breath

There is a common occurrence at my writer's groups and I think it might help any new writers that might happen to stumble upon this blog, perhaps while looking for the lyrics to a Hamilton song. Here. I'll help the search engines. "The Election of 1800" + "Lyrics" Good.

Anyway, this problem often starts with a side issue, which is the "Slow Read Problem." This happens when your writer's group hasn't met for two weeks because you meet at the house of a high-falutin' humorist and he goes on cruises once a year and the group has forgotten important things that happened in your last submission. Because: cruise. And high falutin'.

Anyway, this happened last week. The number one, actually I think the only high-level criticism They had with my submission was that one of the characters, The Cat of Darkness, didn't seem to have anything to loose and they'd lost track of his thread and they wanted him to meet up with the other characters. The last we handled right away when I reminded them the two groups had met up about five chapters previously and asked if they still thought it was a problem and they all agreed that no, they'd just forgotten and that part was fine. I told them that the rest of the problem would go away in the chapters NEXT week, and while I couldn't figure out a way to solve it in the chapters this week, maybe we'd talk about it after the next group when we all had the big picture. We all agreed and walked away.

Here's what was really going on:

The critique caught me off guard and sent me into a panic spiral. All I could think of was that I'd need to rewrite about a quarter of the book to fix the problem and that I had no idea what I was doing and that I was a hack and dear God don't look me!

But. Deep breath. This happens all the time. Fake it 'til you make it. Keep outwardly calm. Suggest a plausible-sounding plan like a grown-up and fall apart in the car on the drive home.

Then, on said drive home, the initial panic wore off and several things came back to me one at a time. First of all, one of my primary critiques way back at during that last group was that they liked the irony that the Cat of Darkness's stakes were so much higher than the main character's (in a certain scene played for that comparison, at least). They'd just forgotten that scene. While sitting on deck chairs in the Caribbean.

Also, they had all enjoyed this omniscient scene I'd written this week who's entire purpose had been to up the stakes on the Cat of Darkness even farther. I just hadn't finished connecting the dots between the rules I set in that scene and what they met for the Cat of Darkness. A simple failure to finish a logical conclusion.

And next week, all those elements come together in an epic cat fight.

This post is entirely free of metaphor, BTW.

The point is, I didn't freak out. I panicked, but I didn't let them know it. And when the panic receded, I realized that the entire high-level problem went away with the addition of a single sentence to make certain that the readers knew that a scene about a cat was, indeed, about a cat.

I bounced that sentence off the group when I got home to ask if I could get away with it, because it was particularly omniscient, and they all thought it fixed everything very nicely. The closest we came to a critique was the high-falutin' humorist, who gave back a joke suggestion that earned him forgiveness for the whole cruise thing.