Friday, November 21, 2008

Crisis of confidence

I've had a week agonising about my writing. My OU assignment came back with a mark significantly below what I wanted and even well below what I had realistically expected. The comments and feedback really didn't make it clear enough how I could have improved my grade. I already knew that I was far from the only person experiencing this, which was a comfort.

An email to my tutor did provide some further clarification and I am, of course, not blind to the failings of my work. Indeed I often find faults that others don't see. But for some reason this time the criticism hit me hard.

I've put my OU books aside and spent the rest of the week on my novel. I have recently restructured and savagely edited what was already there and added about 2,500 new words. At last I am feeling comfortable with my chosen style and structure, with the new tweaks I think it is starting to work.

The realisation has been creeping up on me recently that I just want to write accessible fiction, not the highly literary fodder of advanced level university courses. I am a great believer that books can be both commercial and very well written. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I'm not going to give up the course, because it can only improve my writing. But in my novel I intend to stay true to my own voice, which I feel is more commercial than literary. That is my comfort zone, for sure, but if I can get it to work, why would I need to experiment?

Three notable things:

1. We are very proud of son 1, who is having an interview for a college place on Monday and hopefully starting some work experience the following week. His discharge from the day service is planned for Christmas.

2. I spent yesterday evening talking to a group of parents with children on the autistic spectrum, mostly newly diagnosed. I really enjoy being able to show them that the future is not necessarily as bleak as they will be thinking right now.

3. After an appointment yesterday I ventured quickly into Marks and Spencer's one day sale. I took a look at the queues and walked right out again, as I would otherwise not have made my lunch meeting over a pizza.


Caroline said...

You go girlie!
Be true to you and stay focused. And, above all else, don't let the OU course strip away your confidence and belief.


Beth said...

There seem to be quite a few of us around that got lower marks than we expected. This is only the first one - plenty of time to improve (in OU terms at least) - IF you want to.

And if it's helped you realise your priorities it's all to the good, really.

I've never found that the writing tutors want highly literary writing only. Might be something your tutor can help with?

Cathy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cathy said...

Removed my original comment due to spelling errors!

Thanks Caroline :)

Yes you're right B, there is time for improvement and that is my aim now, because my reason for doing the course was to learn new writing skills. What rocked me most was that I, and the fellow student who had critted my story, both thought it was not too bad and would have anticipated a slightly higher mark (though I can see plenty of room room for improvement too!) My mark was, I think, my lowest ever from the OU.

A slight concern is that I intended doing fiction for my ECA, but now I'm wondering if that will be wise.

As for the genre thing, there does seem to be a backlash, both in this course and when I did A215, against anything aimed at the womens mag/romance/chick lit/humour markets, however well written it is. My story this time didn't fall into any of those categories, but a friend was caught out. I guess a lot depends on the background and the interests of individual tutors too. For example, I hardly ever read or write sci-fi/fantasy, therefore I would not feel qualified to mark pieces in those genres, where there are certain conventions.

Onwards and hopefully upwards for those of us who were disappointed!


Cathy said...

Oh dear. It's too early in the morning. I didn't mean to write 'room' twice. My TMA was not littered with typos, honestly!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your low OU mark, I too strongly believe that a well written book can also be commercial, after reading Stephen King recently, who I had previously ignored out of some slightly snobbish prejudices and the fact I'm not that keen on horror, but after reading his On Writing book, I thought I'd give his fiction a go and I was amazed about what good quality the writing was. The stuff I write is definitely more on the (hopefully one day) commercial side.

Anne Brooke said...

Sounds like the writing crisis has led you to new and good decisions, Cathy - so that's fabulous. Well done you. And also well done to your son on all he's doing.

Love & hugs


Flowerpot said...

There is absolutely nothing the matter with 'commercial' fiction. All this really means is that it sells well - and why? Because people want to read it. Which means that it's lively, interesting and well written. (Well, most of it.) What's the matter with that?! Go for it.

Cathy said...

Lacer- I've not read a lot of Stephen King, but what I hae was very well written And oh to be that successful!

Anne - thank you :)

Flowerpot - my thoughts exactly! But unfortunately creative writing academics don't always see things that way ;)

Sue Guiney said...

I'm sure what you are feeling about the way to write your novel is correct. I think that in exercises etc we can try on all sorts of voices and techniques, but when it comes to a sustained piece of work like a novel, you have to be true to yourself otherwise it just won't work at all. And, that's such good news about Son 1. He's really moving forward! xo

HelenMWalters said...

Glad to hear you're feeling comfortable about how things are going with the novel. That's the most important thing really.

Anonymous said...

It is a very positive thing to talk to other parents who have already been through the mill, so to speak.

CJ xx