As we return to the journey through The Zealot, it is 2008 and I have come back to the group after being away for six months. Shortly after my return, Heather joined the Indiana Writer’s Center and our group. In those days, believe it or not, we didn’t have many women. Testosterone dominated Wednesday nights. I like it better now. Just saying.
Anyway, the old familiar faces were still there. They all seemed to welcome me back, eager to slap me around again. After a period of settling in, David encouraged me to submit once again, telling the group that I had changed my opening, dropping a few characters, condensing the opening chapter quite a bit, and making my killer darker.
After a lot of hesitation, I decided to go for it again. I felt I had learned a lot during my time away, but deep down I was nowhere near as good as these people, and feared I would never be. This writing thing was much more complicated than I ever imagined it. I submitted the first two chapters and held my breath.
I showed up with my Kevlar helmet and vest on. They had those same damn smiles from before. A sure sign of blood, my blood. I should have brought a pint. To my surprise, they loved the opening. Most of the group had liked my serial killer, but now they absolutely loved the darkness of the killer. The downers were the same old things from before. I lacked depth of my other characters compared to my killer. As always, they said I enjoyed writing and getting into him more than anyone else. And as always, they were right. As a writer, I had not learned to love all my characters equally. I had not learned to separate myself mentally as I wrote each and every scene. I had to be an actor, playing every character in every scene to my best ability. I simply wasn’t doing that. I had heard the words before from the group, but for the first time I felt them, understood them.
Then came my biggest, most constant challenge of the novel that would plague me for years, my lead female character. I just never could get her right. Heather was in the group and she joined in the fun. She was sweet and kind and gentle with me in the beginning. She didn’t like my female character, but didn’t destroy me over it. She just gave me nice suggestions on how to improve her. The problem was I was so dense I didn’t get the basic concept of what the problem really was. I should have killed her off.
A few chapters in, this new guy showed up. He started to submit. He was an outstanding writer. I had worked hard while I was away at my POV problem. For the most part, I had conquered it, but at times I slipped back into my bad habits. Even looking over my own work before submitting, I missed it. Of course the group didn’t miss it and especially the new guy. Up until this night, his critiques had been hard like everyone else, but okay. POV must have been his trigger point because he really took off on me. He was the tiger and I was the raw steak. His delivery was not the best to say the least. All I will say here is that I did not take it well. I had seen this movie before. I have told you about the pain, the anger, everything. The first time was a woman and I held everything in check. This time I let myself blow. I simply ripped him like I would someone from the street and then I packed my stuff up and left, this time for a year.
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