Insecure Writer’s Support Group: The Workshop Blues…

August 7, 2014

Hey, guess I got kicked out of IWSG again for missing two months in a row, but I’m back. And boy am I insecure! 😉

Sign – when is revision ever enough? I just got back from the ‘Never-Ending Odyssey’ workshop in New Hampshire, and it was a great week of critique circles and hanging out with writers and that kinda stuff. But I also came to realize that I’ve got a LOT of work still to do on this novel I was workshopping, “Think of the Children”, which is a little disappointing after the months and months of work I’ve already put into the current draft. A fresh perspective from reader-writers is what I go to workshops for, but it was depressing to realize that the book still isn’t putting its best face out there and it just isn’t as ready as I thought it was.

At the same time, I think I’m kinduv excited about what I’ve learned, about how to get to the essential conflict in the story and let that shine. So, first step, is to put what I’ve learned into a new revision outline. I can get that finished in August, right? I hope so, because it’s on my goals list, along with a few other things…

What’s up with you? Are you feeling insecure this week? Share your thoughts with all of us.

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Late IWSG: procrastination and February blahs

February 6, 2014

First, sorry that this is late. I’ve actually been having some issues about juggling ‘What’s up Wednesday’ and the IWSG the past few months, since they both fall on Wednesdays. I don’t want to skip either, but I don’t like blogging twice in the same day or trying to combine two topics in the same post, so… what can ya do?

So, yeah. Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I knew what I had to focus on this week, and next week. Time’s running out for applying to Kij Johnson’s novel workshop, I got some great feedback on my synopsis from Team Ambitious, so… I mucked around, watched television, and didn’t really tackle it until this evening.

I’m not quite sure why I couldn’t rise above procrastination. This winter has been a bit tough on me, energy-wise. I can keep on with the day-to-day, and I’m reading like nobody’s business, but actually getting stuff written has been harder. Also, the feedback that my critiquers sent out was rich enough in detail to be a little overwhelming, and this was the first time in months that we weren’t able to swing a Google Hangout for critiques. So I didn’t have the little ceremony of the virtual critique circle to help me come to terms with the response, just a few files in my email. Maybe it took me this long to come to terms subconsciously with what I absorbed when I skimmed through the files, and that’s something I had to do before I could tackle the work consciously. (Looks back and forth shiftily.) Yeah, that’s exactly what happened.

But at least I’m making progress now.


Taking criticism is still tough…

May 24, 2013

The revised version of “Won’t somebody think of the Children”, the one that I spent nearly sixteen months slaving over, (with a few breaks to work on other projects,) is still working its way through the critters.org critique queue. Chapter 4 got sent out for critiques on Wednesday, and I’ve gotten one full critique back of the entire novel by a dedicated reader and I’m waiting on a few others.

The results certainly haven’t been universally encouraging. I really think that the story is much stronger than it was in the first draft, and I’ve gotten some encouraging validation from some readers, but there have also been a few responses that took some wind from my sails. One of the critiques I got from chapter four said that there was no conflict, nothing at stake; and offered three different rewriting techniques for improving a scene. I was disheartened when I first received that, and then twelve hours later, I got a short commenting on my colon use, with four paragraphs of praise and apologizing for not having more negative feedback. 😉

I guess I’m going to have to organize all my critiques, including the feedback from the dedicated readers who haven’t gotten back to me yet, and evaluate it all like a big pot of soup without paying too much attention to any one piece. And always bear in mind that the first revision I did was based off my own impressions of the book, and there are dozens of tools from the Holly Lisle revision course that I can still turn to and use to fix the problems that I never saw, once a critter has pointed out that they’re there.

It may be a tough job, but a writer’s gotta do it at some point!


Procrastinating on getting feedback.

January 10, 2013

I’ve started to realize that I’m procrastinating on on of my January goals – getting feedback on the new draft of “The Storm Mirror.” And I don’t really have the usual excuses of it being too much work and not enough time – yes, I don’t have a lot of time, but one of the Young Guns from the CSSF Short Fiction Writer’s workshops actually replied to an email I sent back in December how I was working on the revision, and said that he’d like to take a look and send me his thoughts. All I need to do is format the story up to SFWA standards and email it off.

But – well, I guess I’m nervous about the response I’d get. I’m very excited about this version of the story. I honestly think it may be one of the finest pieces of writing I’ve done. But the gentleman who has offered to do a critique is a really great writer with an incredible fund of knowledge about speculative fiction of all kinds, and he can be kinduv tough to impress.

I know I should get off my butt, send the piece off – and then take the critique with a few grains of salt when I get it back. But I’m not going to do that tonight. It’s late and I’m tired, after all. 😉


Critters

April 4, 2011

Critter: (noun, dialect.) A reader who undertakes to provide a constructive critique or helpful feedback on behalf of the author of the piece being read.

Critters are great. Critters are indispensable to my writing process, and I suspect that 90% of successful writers have critters of some sort.

Where to find good critters can be a difficult problem. Non-writer friends are often not the best critters, because they don’t always understand what kind of detail is helpful to a writer. Writer friends can make good critters, but not when they’re busy with writing first drafts of their own.

Critter exchanges can be a very good arrangement, or writer’s circles in which the entire group acts as critters for each of the members in turn.

I’ve found some good critter exchanges on the ‘Nano swaps’ forum of the National Novel Writing Month online community, and I’m attend two local writer’s groups that do critiques of pieces that members bring in. I’ve even acted as a critter wrangler for the Stringing Words online forum, organizing their third CritMo (Critter Month) event and pairing up authors with volunteer critters who read their pieces and send in feedback.

Recently, I’ve also joined an amazing online workshop called… (drum roll please,) critters.org, which runs something like the same program on a much larger scale. Here’s how it works, basically:


Don’t fight the rule

January 13, 2011

I went back to the New writing workshop last night – I had a good time and got some good notes on the first three pages of “The Landing”, as well as listening to some funky poems and stories and telling the other writers what I thought about them.

It was definitely a different experience than the first time I went, in September. I came prepared for some ‘intensely constructive criticism’, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. But there was something else that I was reacting too differently.

The workshop co-ordinator made a point of spelling out ‘his rule’ for these workshops – the author hands out the copies, gives a little explanation if he (or she) feels inclined to, reads… AND THEN SHUTS UP. The rest of the group are then free to respond in any way they feel moved, to get into a discussion among themselves, but they are not supposed to ask the author questions. And the author is not supposed to reply to their feedback, beyond the level of grunts or pleasantries perhaps.

I do remember something being said along these lines back in September, but not as clearly – and I definitely didn’t follow the rule back then. That was a lot of the problem, I see now – I started to get defensive about my story, which probably got some of the other participants more insistent on making their points.

This isn’t the only way to run a critiquing circle, of course. The Chester’s group has a format where the people who wrote the piece are welcome into the discussion, and questions are often asked of them, and that works quite well for the group there by and large. But the rule for the new workshop probably encourages more indepth criticism, as opposed to promoting encouragement of authors.

I’ll definitely be going back to James street north for the New Workshop again this winter. And – I’m sorry for arguing back last time, guys.


Blogosphere special: the “Show me yours” Blogfest!

January 3, 2011

Blogosphere index

Okay, today is the day of the Show me yours Blogfest, in which bloggers share a 500-word passage from their Nanowrimo 2010 writing and go comment like mad on each other’s excerpts!

So, here’s mine. It’s from the very beginning of “The Angel’s Charlie,” and does a really good job of setting the scene, I think:

Nothing made sense when Richard opened his eyes.

It wasn’t like things had been that clear in the moment before he opened them either, really. The last thing he could clearly remember was driving home after a late night in the office, and then… well, he’d still been sitting down, but somehow it had been obvious that he wasn’t in a car anymore. As far as he could tell now, he was in the chapel of a church, which hadn’t been the case for far too many months, really, and it definitely wasn’t Ottawa Street Baptist, either.

He started to explore the material available in the back of the pew in front of him. Old-fashioned looking hymnal, so probably not an evangelical denomination. Catholic? No, the decor didn’t really look Catholic… maybe Anglican. Aha, little visitor’s cards to drop into the collection plate, with spots for name and address. But they’d have the name on the card – yeah. ‘Episcopal church of the Good Shephard’, and an address on Delaware Street. It didn’t really ring a bell, except that he thought something was slightly off with ‘Episcopal.’

“I’m afraid that there won’t be a worship service for a while, young man. Are you in need of prayers?”

Richard looked up quickly to see an older man in a sedate uniform standing near the chapel doors. Quickly he rose to his own feet. “Not really, reverend… though a good word with the Lord Father is always appropriate, I suppose. Maybe we could pray together, before we leave, actually. But – but I have to say I’m a little confused, not sure how I got here.”

“I’m afraid I can’t help you with that, my son, though I assumed you walked in,” the reverend said, chuckling slightly. “When I saw you sleeping in the pew on a Tuesday night, I suppose I assumed – that you just didn’t have any better shelter from the cold. Perhaps I was wrong.”

“Yes, the last thing I remember, I was on my way home… do you have any idea how I’d get to Queenston Road from here?” The reverend looked blank. “The Research in Motion headquarters?” Still no real recognition. “It’s not too far from the big university campus.”

“Ah, well, then, you’re just down the street from campus,” the reverend told him more brightly. “I can point you that way, at least. And you can check in our parking lot to see if your car is there, of course.”

“Thank you.” Richard took a breath. “What about that prayer, then?”

“I think that would be a good idea.” The two men sat down on one of the nearby pews. “I’m reverend Hynes, by the way.”

“Richard Horwood, and nice to meet you.” Richard closed his eyes. “Father in heaven, I’m feeling very lost and confused right now, but I know that to you, the way that I should follow is clear and straight. Please guide me in your infinite wisdom, and lead me along the path that leads to your service. You have blessed me with many gifts in my life, I am thankful for them all and give praise to you. Amen.”

“Dear Father, your servant Richard is in need of aid,” the Father added. “You know what his needs are better than I do, or he does, so help him along his way, and give him the strength to carry his burdens for your sake. All glory to your name, Amen.”

UPDATE: Okay, as of this writing, I’ve given feedback to 15, out of the other 34 bloggers who’ve participated in this challenge, and it’s been a really fun experience. If I haven’t posted a comment to your excerpt yet – I’ll do my best to get to you sometime this week – and for the 7 people who signed up and haven’t posted excerpts yet, I’ll keep checking your blog too.

This event has been really very much in line with what I wanted to be doing with Blogosphere Mondays – finding other bloggers who are sharing their own writing, letting them know what I thought, encouraging them – and attracting new readers to my own blog as well. Kinda fortuitous that the whole thing happened to be scheduled on a Monday already!

Out of curiosity, I started tracking the length of the different posted excerpts – partly because mine was stretching the 500 word limit. Well, I wasn’t alone. 22 of the excerpts were more than 500 words, ranging from 505 up to 972 words. (My 567 was more or less in the middle of that pack.) And there was one person who was exactly on 500, and twelve who were less, going from 257 up to 498. Sorry, my numbers geek is coming out to play now.

Oh, and all 3 of the founding blogfest members were over the 500 word limit that they imposed – 533 to 647 words. 😉

Happy Blogfest, everybody.


Blogosphere Monday: Teralyn Rose Pilgrim

December 20, 2010

Sorry, today’s feature is going to be very short, because I’ve got a busy day and a headache. But I didn’t want to skip showcasing this week’s blogger.

Teralyn has lots of great stuff up about feedback, queries, finding an agent, and the energy and focus it takes to write. Check her spot out!


Nanowrimo: Just around the corner!

October 28, 2010

There’s only three days and a few-odd hours left until November starts, and with it comes National Novel Writing Month.

Even though October feels like it’s flown by, (and many of the items on my creative to-do list will remain unfinished,) I’m very excited. It’ll be great to see all my Nano-er friends at write-ins, I’ll be going back to San Fran for the Night of Writing Dangerously, (and staying in the Bay area for nearly two weeks this time!) and I just always love the creative boost that I get from going onto the Nanowrimo site during November.

There’s also my birthday somewhere in there.

I shared some of my snowflake notes with the Hamilton Writers group this week. Got some very excited and enthusiastic feedback, and some good suggestions, including plenty of ideas about how to make the fact that my main character is a dead person sent back to Earth by the angels in the body of another man into a HUGE surprise reveal nearly half-way through.

However, it seems like I need to come up with a catchy word to describe the concept of ‘a dead person sent back to Earth by the angels to complete a mission in the body of another person.’

Any ideas or suggestions? Also, if you’re going to be doing Nano this year – how ready are you?


A good review from fellow writers…

October 8, 2010

There’s nothing like hearing some positive feedback to lift your spirits.

I took the flash story ‘The onus of Grace’ to the Hamilton Writer’s meeting on Tuesday, and mentioned that I was thinking about expanding it into a longer piece for National Novel Writing Month. All the responses I got were really impressed and encouraging – a few questions about the setup of the characters, but also tons of praise about how the dialog seemed more natural and conversational than some of the stuff that I sometimes bring, and how the setup was a good way of introducing the idea that my main character had paranormal powers while still ‘hooking’ the reader with a bit of a mystery. In fact, I’m left with the idea that this scene, or some version of it, would be a good way to start the extended version, which wasn’t what I had planned, I’d meant to go back further to what I thought of as the beginning of the story. Hmm…

One of the other writers read a short essay about critique groups, how to tell when you’ve found a good critique group and make the best of it, and that sort of thing. Everybody liked the overall thrust of the article, though we had some minor polishing notes. I’m hoping to get her permission to repost it up at Stringing Words when it’s finished.

And that’s about all for now. Still looking forward to Nanowrimo, busy with work and driving lessons, made a Whedon Halloween Scavenger hunt video that I’ll probably put up on Youtube soon. Also have been working on proofreading one of my older Roswell fan fiction pieces, “Runaway with you.”


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