“SO WHAT DO you think about it?” Lizzie sits across from me, so excited she can barely sit still.
I plaster on a smile and set her manuscript on the table between us. That was the problem with Lizzie; she believed in her work when a wiser person wouldn’t.
This was going to be rough. “It was… interesting.” I flip through the pages so I wouldn’t have to look at her. “I liked the idea behind it. It has… promise.”
“You do!” She perks up. “You think it has promise?”
Lizzie also had difficulty hearing tone. “After a few re-writes,” I add, trying to keep my voice neutral. “You could flesh out some parts.”
She blinks and sits back. “What parts?”
“Oh, the parts at the beginning… the middle… and the ending could be, you know, reworked.” I tighten paper clip and shove the manuscript over to her. “It’s a great start, though. Keep at it.”
Her face falls. “You didn’t like it.”
I look out the window so I wouldn’t have to see the disappointmenton her face. “No! I didn’t say that – ”
“Yes, you did.” She stuffs the papers back into her book bag. “You said I should re-write it.”
“Lizzie, nobody’s first draft is good,” I say gently. “It takes time to develop a story.”
“Time!” she explodes. I cringe; Lizzie gets loud when she gets emotional. People sitting around us shoot us dirty looks.
Despite the looks, Lizzie continues ranting. “I don’t have time! I’m getting old! I’ve been at this for three years, and it still sucks!” She sighs and slumps in her chair. “Writing is so hard! I have all of these stories in my head, but I can’t seem to get them out.”
“Maybe a course in creative writing would help,” I suggest. “The university has a robust continuing adult education program – ”
“Oh, I should take a course?” She shoves the manuscript into her backpack, her face dark with anger. “Did Stephanie Meyer take a course?”
“I think she has a M.F.A.,” I reply.
That throws her. “Well, what about Holly Black, huh? Does she have an M.F.A?”
I shake my head. “I don’t know who that is.”
“Whatever,” she sneers. “You think I suck.”
“I think you asked me for my opinion.” I clear my throat and wave at the waitress. Fine. She wants a fight, I’ll give her one. “It’s not good, Liz. Your character development is poor, your story line non-existent, and your grammar, good Lord, you have a Ph.D, and that’s how you punctuate? I guess they have dumbed down upper education in this country.”
She gapes at me, her face flushing a bright red. Okay, that was a little harsh. I paused to let the emotion settle.
“Liz, what I’m saying is this. Write because you like to write. You have stories in your head? Write those down, then re-write, and re-write some more. Read everything you can about character and plot development. A course or two would help, too.” I pause and strum my fingers on the table. “But right now, at this time, you’re not there yet.”
Tears begin streaming down her face. “I’m never going to get there.”
I shrug. “Maybe not. Not everyone can write. But I think with some practice and instruction you can get better.” The waitress brings the check; I lay down a $20. It’s the least I can do. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear.”
“I don’t think you are.” She gets up and slings her backpack over her shoulder, heading out of the cafe without so much of a backward glance.
I sit and watch her unlock her bike. I’d text her later, to see how she’s doing. Lizzie may not be able to write for shit, but she is a sweet woman who doesn’t hold grudges.
Maybe I should have lied, but she asked me for an honest opinion. The truth is, everyone thinks they can write, but few people actually can. Better she hear it from me.
I wait until she disappears around the corner, then head out for my car.
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Inspired by Meg Dowd’s post Stop Saying Everything You Read is Interesting. BTW, I find Meg’s advice for aspiring authors to be on point. It’s like she knows me. 🙂 Check out her blog Novelty Revisions for other topics.
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