Writing Class Blues

What do you do when you realize your dreams aren’t going to come true? That you’re not very good at the thing you love the most? It’s depressing, and it’s what I’m dealing with right now.

I’d describe myself as a self-taught writer. I never did that great in English in high school or university, never had a teacher tell me I was a good writer. I started doing it out of loneliness, as a coping mechanism. I have seven novels written that I think are good, but I have no idea if other people, real writers, would think they’re good.

So I decided to take a night novel writing class to learn some new things and hopefully become a better writer. Out of the six people in the class, I’m the one who’s written the most novels, but I’m the weakest writer in the class. It hit me when the class workshopped two excerpts of two different novels I’m working on.

The first one they looked at is my favorite novel, the one that I love the most and feel is my best. They didn’t like it. They thought it sounded unrealistic, the characters sounded too juvinlie, my female lead too perfect and beautiful, and the writing weak. The teacher could tell that I’m not the best at grammar. The main criticism I got was in my writing I “show and don’t tell.” I still don’t really know what that means. I think it means that I summarize events instead of showing it in the characters actions. I didn’t even realize I did it and changing it is so difficult.

Last night, they looked at a new novel that I started just a few months ago. They liked it a whole lot better than my other novel (which was surprising to me, since I’ve been working on the first one for two years and the new one for only a few months) but the criticism was the same, “showing and not telling.” The teacher had to even sit with me and explain basic things about writing that other people in the class just understood. I felt like an idiot.

It feels like my dreams are crashing down around me. One student was told that her novel is so good at this point she should start “seeking out publication.” That’s what I want to do. And now I know it’s not going to happen.

I feel like giving up. I’m looking at all the books and short stories I’ve written over the years and think they’re shit. How can I be a writer if I don’t know grammar? Or how to spell? I don’t even know what exposition means.

I’m not saying that I regret taking this class. It’s been a good experience and I learned a lot. But my spirit is crushed.

I don’t know what I’m going to do now.




Filed under Personal, Writing

3 responses to “Writing Class Blues

  1. 2blu2btru

    Don’t give up! Many of the things they tell you in writing classes aren’t easy for “real” writers (trust me, I have a degree in English Literature :D). Grammar is easier to learn than having a knack for character development or dialogue; sentence structure and punctuation generally don’t change. Once you learn the rules, you start bending them anyway.

    Show and not telling simply means paint a picture instead of giving it away. Think of show and tell in Kindergarten. You had an actual object or person that you allowed others to see and draw their own conclusions about then you told them about it. I don’t have to say someone is sad or disappointed if I say they slumped in their seat frowning at their hands. Using strong verbs instead of adjectives and adverbs (“slumped” instead of “sat dejectedly” or “looked sad”) is the easiest way to start doing this.

    If you love writing, as you appear to, keep learning about it. Keep reading great writers and books on writing. Continually hone your craft and be serious about it. But don’t ever give up, even if you end up just writing for yourself.

  2. Ren Thompson

    I totally agree with what 2blu has to say.
    First and foremost, DO NOT GIVE UP!! A true writer doesn’t let a bunch of people chase them away from what they want to do. There are a lot of published writers out there that are complete garbage in my opinion but the key thing is that they kept going and got PUBLISHED.
    Secondly, take a step back and take a look at what they are saying. I was told that you must read your work aloud to yourself to hear how it sounds. Does it make sense to you? Can you see what the main character is seeing?
    What exactly are you going for when it comes to dialect? Yada, yada, yada.
    Third, you have to develop a thicker skin. Any and all writers will tell you that straight up. Harsh criticism and honest critiques go hand in hand on the road to publication. I just got murdered in my online writing class about an assignment I posted. Once I got over getting my teeth kicked in, I took a look at what they were saying and saw where it could have been better.
    I’ve read your work (We were like the cast of Rent, does that ring a bell?) and I was screaming at you back then that you should get your work published.
    As far as that girl in your class who has everyone saying she should get published? Puh-leaze.
    She will eventually get slapped down with rejection letters just like the rest of us because someone in the industry will look at her work and deem it rubbish.
    It happens.
    Keep doing your assignments, take notes of what they are saying and file it away. You are in there to learn, that’s it. They are not the ones who will decide whether or not you get published.
    And just in case you didn’t get it earlier, the point of my rant is DO NOT GIVE UP!!!

  3. Hun!
    Don’t ever let what others think of you cause you to doubt yourself. All good authors have had to learn how to deal with (negative) feedback. You have things that hinder you, true, but you are now aware of those things and can overcome them.
    It’ll get better soon… don’t let this rough patch get you down!!!

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