Tag Archives: critique group

Socializing for an Anti-Social Profession

Let’s face it, writers spend a lot of their time alone, lost in the worlds inside their heads. Some of them have even been known to bite when provoked. Getting those words on the page is the only way to get the voices to stop.

But stories are about people, and it’s kind of hard to understand how people work without spending any time with them. So every writer needs to get away from the manuscript once in a while and get out there where the stories are. If they’re lucky they can also find other people who share their interests and might be able to help refine their work into something they can print.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

– Stephen King

Today I’m going to tell you about two of the things in my life that help me get my writing done. Writer’s groups and conventions.

I have been with a writing group for a few years now. We meet on a weekly basis and discuss our work. In the past, we would read our pieces out loud and get critiques from the others. That worked, but there were times when nobody had anything to read, or when only one person had anything prepared, so there was sometimes a bit of guilt or tension in the group.

We are shaking things up a bit now. We’re still going to meet weekly, but we’re only going to offer critiques once a month. The other weeks we will use as a scheduled writing time, with the opportunity to discuss any story problems we are stuck on with the rest of the group. We will also take some time each month to discuss a book that we have read.

I’m not sure about the book discussion, as I already have a discussion group that I go to at my local library once a month. I have enough trouble getting through the books on my own to-read shelf without adding yet another one from someone else’s list. But I’ll give it a try anyway, because at least the books that my writing group discuss will be more closely aligned with the ones I normally read for pleasure. The library book group mostly discusses popular fiction and non-fiction, which I would probably never read on my own.

As for conventions, it is nice to be able to get out and meet new people every once in a while. Conventions give me a chance to get out there and participate in discussions about interesting topics led by interesting people. I also get the chance to meet famous people, like Larry Niven, who has been a favorite author of mine for decades.

This year my convention plans include Odyssey Con, April 12-14, and WisCon, May 24-27, both held in my home town of Madison, Wisconsin. I almost decided to skip Odyssey Con this year, but when they announced that the Guests of Honor included Alex Bledsoe and Kevin Hearne, I just had to go. Alex is also local to the Madison area, and I have met him several times and consider him to be a friend. He is a great guy and his writing is superb. Kevin is the author of the Iron Druid series, which I started reading a couple of years ago and have loved every bit of it, so I am looking forward to meeting this outstanding author.

While at the conventions, I will have a chance to sit in on discussion panels with these two greats, as well as many other writers and fans, and pick their brains about writing, news of the world, and our future on this planet (and possibly others). And there will be lots of other, like-minded people around as well, each with their own opinions and views to share.

I highly recommend that, whatever your situation, you should try to connect with other writers. Either with a writer’s group or a convention. Preferably both. And if you can afford to travel, come and join me in Madison at one of my conventions and introduce yourself. We’ll chat.

I’ve got to go lock myself in a room now and get some writing done. I’m going to write another Alchemist story this week, and I am hoping that I will be able to finish it ahead of schedule again. As usual, I will post another update on Wednesday.

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Filed under Conventions, Networking, The Writing Experience

Am I on the Wrong Track?

My writer’s critique group didn’t go so well for me. Essentially, I was told that the situation I used to get my kids to a point where I could give them their powers was too contrived and it didn’t make any sense.

I can’t honestly say I disagree.

First, some of those kids shouldn’t have been sent to that summer camp. One of them was supposed to be a borderline sociopath, and I was told that no respectable therapist would have put someone like that into a social situation. Another one was supposed to have been sent there because she was caught fooling around with a boy one too many times. Again, her parents would not have sent her to a co-ed camp if that was the case.

Strike one.

Second, the kids are behaving in ways beyond their years. Maybe it’s because I am an OLD MAN, and have lost touch with the way kids talk and behave nowadays. Or maybe, this story would just be better if it was aimed at a slightly older market. I had initially thought they would be in their early teens, but they are getting into sexual situations which (at least in my mind) would be more appropriate for an older audience. I have felt for some time that I was struggling with keeping this at an age-appropriate level, and she confirmed my diagnosis.

Strike two.

Finally, in order to get them to the cabin where they got their powers, I had them go on a backpacking hike. It was just the four kids and one counselor, and they were supposed to take shelter in what they thought was a deserted cabin when a storm blew in out of nowhere. As my friend pointed out to me, a real counselor would have a) checked the weather before leaving; b) had a cell phone or radio in case of emergency; c) had supplies in the pack that would be useful if a problem came up; and d) would never have left a mixed group of kids alone in a cabin while she went for help.

Strike three. You’re OUT!

If you follow me on Facebook, you can tell that I’m not really happy with this news. I understand what she told me, and I agree that it was sloppy writing. But this means that everything I have done so far will need to be redone. And I’m not sure I’m ready to do that.

I do have some (hopefully) good ideas on how I might be able to fix this, but I also have a commitment to finishing this story by the end of September. If I start over I don’t think I’ll be able to do that. Besides, I have been living with these kids in my head for the last seven weeks and I would kind of like to see how this story goes, even if it is poorly written.

So I think I’m going to just keep plugging away while I let some of the ideas for a new beginning percolate in my head. I have known for a while that I was going to have a lot of editing to do before this thing is ready to publish, so nothing has changed. I’ll probably jot down some notes before I forget my new ideas, but I won’t attempt to start the rewrite until I finish the ending.

I think another thing that I’ll be doing is going through each scene and figure out how each of them advances the story. I haven’t had any formal writing courses since high school (25 years ago) so I’m a bit of a klutz when it comes to plotting, but I would like to make sure that this piece is as finely crafted as I can manage. I probably should have spent more time on the outline, but at that point I really didn’t have any idea who these people were and there was no way I could do that kind of in-depth planning.

The story is moving along. The kids have all discovered their powers and are trying to move forward to catch the killer. It won’t be long now before they discover that they weren’t really ready, and things will fall apart again. But they’ll come back from their failure and win in the end. That is what’s supposed to happen, right?

Come back Wednesday for another thrilling episode of Author In Progress. See you then!

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Filed under ROW80, The Writing Experience