A few weeks ago I mentioned that I’d passed the the first three chapters of my Work in Progress to my writing mentor to see if she thought I was working along the right lines. Like a good friend, she responded incredibly swiftly with some trenchant and radical opinions, so radical, in fact, that they stopped me dead in my tracks. She thought that I wasn’t starting the book in the right place and that the strain of trying to bind two stories together was showing and that I should focus on just one. And that was just for starters! She had other observations to make as well.
My knee-jerk response was to junk everything I had written and begin the book again, closer to the origins of the story.
The subconscious, creative part of my brain has now had six weeks to process these suggestions. I’ve barely written anything and yet I feel the time has been well spent. The two strands of the plot are beginning to synthesise themselves together, although I have made major changes, and I’m fairly confident I know where my starting point needs to be.
The reason I’m sharing all of this with you is that it has taken me a long time to make constructive use of the criticism I received. You can’t rush the creative process – if you do, you are likely to make mistakes you will come to regret. If you are in the throes of writing a novel or a story, hold your nerve and take your time. Contemplation is one of the most active things an author can do, even if it make you feel as if you are in a passive state. The three Rs of creative writing are every bit as important as the reading, writing and ‘rithmetic you learn at school: when you are lucky enough to be given criticism, Receive, Reflect, Respond.