Signposts from Odyssey

June 14, 2013

Hey there! I know I haven’t blogged since before I left for Odyssey. It’s been a crazy week. But I said soon after I got here that I was going to tell my blog followers some of what I’ve learned about the weaknesses in my writing, and how I plan to work on those weaknesses. Since the first weekend is starting, and I’m starting a new story to be critiqued next week, this seems like a good place to start.

I’ve learned that I have room to improve in: conveying the emotion of my characters.

How I plan to improve:

  • Before writing each scene, note each character involved in the scene, where they start emotionally before the scene, and where they are emotionally after the scene is over.
  • Review after writing the scene to check that I’ve conveyed those as strongly as I could, as well as any other transitory emotions they passed through along the way.
  • Review that all of these emotional arcs seem consistent when the first draft is done.

I’ve learned that I have room to improve in: showing the important stuff to readers (not telling.)

How I plan to improve:

  • Make a list of important things to show before writing every scene.
  • Review after writing, that I’ve shown and not told those things, and if there was anything else important that I’ve told instead of showing.

I’ve got lots more room to improve, but this seems good for a start. Have a great weekend!

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Goals and Resolutions update, September 2012

September 21, 2012

Well, now that I’ve finished my Block Revision, I’ve got a bit more time to look at some of the other goals that I set myself for this month. I don’t think I’m in too bad shape, but I’ve got enough to keep me busy until October. 😉

  1. Start lesson 18 of ‘How to Revise your Novel.’ I’ve sortuv done this already, in that I’ve read the lesson. It’s all about fairly low-level editing; voice and style and grace and elegance (that’s actually a bad one!) and how to place commas correctly so your reader doesn’t want to kill himself or you. I’ll need to organize what I had left from Block Revision before I start in earnest, but that’s cool.
  2. Read 3 short stories – I’m already at 2, both courtesy of the F&SF free magazine subscription on my Kindle; one was an issue that I thought I missed when June switched to July, before I figured out the way to access back issues.
  3. Submit two critiques for critters. Done! One was sample chapters for a longer book that you could critique for extra credits, and I liked the opening, so I’ve requested the full manuscript. Hopefully I can critique that before November.
  4. Exercise every day (at least 30 minutes) and stick to my 2500 calorie diet. Doing pretty well so far…
  5. Cleaning and tidying the apartment. I’m on track here too, over 5 hours tracked out of eight. If I stick to 20 minutes cleaning a day, I’ll be great, can even take one day off. And at least a lot of the cluttered receipts are dealt with.
    I just realized as I was writing that that when I was going through backlog mail and flyers this evening, I didn’t remember throwing old receipts out of my wallet, which is something that I want to do before tomorrow, so that I have room to bring extra cash to the Toronto Doctor Horrible screening and auction! I’ll have to remember to do it before I go tomorrow morning
  6. Organizing files on the netbook computer. Also doing very well, an hour and a half spent out of my target two hours.
  7. Posting a new, edited story up on fanfiction.net – well, I’ve gone through my files, found a story that’s already partly edited. Need to get my butt in a higher gear on this one.
  8. Critique homework stories from the other CSSF workshop writers. Sent in one critique, started on another, out of six. Again, I need to work harder here.

Do you have goals that you’re working on this month? How are they coming along?


Leaving Lawrence, Kansas

July 10, 2011

I’m leaving Lawrence, Kansas, at the age of thirty-five.
To chase down my own notion of the writer’s life.
With my netbook, my convention shirts, and Mom’s old suitcase bags.
If anybody can make it, then maybe I can too…

(With apologies to Sarah Buxton and Bob di Pero for “American Daughters.”)

I leave for the airport late this morning. It’s going to be weird leaving the workshop crowd behind and returning to everyday life. I’ve learned some great things here:

  • It’s not that hard to find good food at Mrs E’s cafeteria.
  • It takes a lot of work to come up with a good critique.
  • It can take even longer to figure out what to do with a critique of your own writing.
  • The main character needs to be proactive and overcome his own obstacles.
  • Be very careful about how much information you dump on the reader and where.
  • As Kathy put it, “Resist the urge to explain” what you’ve just described. (She had a tendency to hand our manuscripts back with just R U E marked on them where we were doing this.)
  • Don’t give the editor an excuse to say ‘no’ to your story at any point, especially at the beginning.
  • Keep working on every word, every sentence, every scene, every character. They all need to support the completed story.
  • A good sentence is one that makes you want to read the next one.
  • If you can get an editor to read all the way to the end of your story, you’ve got a good shot at an acceptance.
  • Every sentence ought to be worth reading. You shouldn’t get by with a sloppy sentence – though occasionally the rest of the story can carry it.
I’ll have more to say about what I learned here once I’m back in Ontario, I assume. That’s all for now!

Critique tracking via spreadsheet

May 15, 2011

Well, the new draft of “The Landing” has been finalized, and sent off both to Chris McKitterick at the CSSF in Kansas, but also to Lightspeed magazine.

I was more than a little daunted by the prospect of going through the seventeen different critiques I received on the story from critters.org, ranging from one short paragraph all the way up to one critique approximately three-quarters the word count of the submitted story! I copied them all from my gmail into a single text file on Thursday night, and tried to go over some of them Friday night at Runnymede, but didn’t really get that far.

So, yesterday night, I finally got systematic. I set up an Excel spreadsheet file, starting one tab with a list of the different critiques, including the origin email, the starting and ending position in my text file, and working out how long each critique was in lines. This was then sorted in ascending order of length, so that I could start with the shorter critiques and work up progressively through longer and longer ones.

(I formatted the email addresses in white on a white background, to preserve the anonymity of critters.)

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