Writers’ Workshop

What happens when you share your art with others?

#memoirs #susanstrasser #susanstrasserblog #amwriting

So as you may or may not recall, I was scheduled to have an excerpt of my latest manuscript workshopped the other week by my newly formed memoir writers’ workshop critique group.

They did, and informed me that it was not the best three chapters they’d ever read in their life!

A novice memoirist can dream, right?

The constructive criticism ran the gamut from hurting my feelings to moderate approval to straight-up compliments. There was an even amount of all of it, to be honest. Compliments! YAY!

And really, I savored it all. I hadn’t shown my manuscript to anyone all year, and it was a relief to get feedback.

My biggest strengths: encapsulating myself as a child and details of the era

My biggest weakness: characterization. Understandable. It’s extremely difficult to create a replica of family members from my childhood mind and feel like the depictions are not only accurate but enable a reader to visualize and hear them.

But my perspective on being a writer submitting to a writer’s workshop is not the same as it was even a year ago; while my ego momentarily stings from the critical comments, all joking aside, I know that the comments are about writing, NOT me. Such a tough lesson to learn. I’ve been workshopping with other writers for decades and it’s taken a long time for me to get to that point.

I see, more than ever, what a gift it is to have my newfound community of peers.

I know that my craft is about process, not product.

Yes, I will publish this damn thing, but not this year.

For three or four years now I have put pressure on myself to publish. When are you publishing your book? people ask. I’d say 2020, 2021, 2022… well, guess what? Not this year!

I had the whole kit and kaboodle at the end of 2021 with an editor breathing down my neck. But you know what? That’s not where I’m at right now. ’24, ’25? Yes, that might work then.

I am so grateful to God for realizing that my memoir is a journey, not a race.

I received pages of thoughtful, insightful critique from my fellow memoirists and I’m going to finish reflecting on it. Take the good with the bad. And get moving on these new character profile sheets I made up to truly bring the folks in my childhood to life!

The average length for a good memoir is around 70,000 words and I’ve got that already.

But how good can I make it?

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