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Second Thoughts

I didn’t get a lot of work done last week. I took a little break to read a new book from one of my favorite authors, Alex Bledsoe (it was great, by the way), but after I finished my reading I had trouble getting back to work. I think that a big part of my problem is that I am having second thoughts about both my character and my story.

Like I was saying last week, I would love to get some feedback about my story idea to see if it would be something that people would like to read. I’m still waiting. As for my character, I’m having trouble with the idea that a man would still be in such pain over his wife’s death as to be suicidal after twenty years. That just doesn’t seem very plausible, does it?

I was basing my character idea on the main character of the Lethal Weapon movies, Martin Riggs, played by Mel Gibson. He is so distraught by his wife’s death that he has trouble going on without her. He considers suicide, but is unable to actually pull the trigger. The only thing that keeps him going is his job as a detective, but even there his behavior clearly shows he has a death wish, as he continuously takes extreme risks that could easily get him killed.

The problem is that, with my character, he has had twenty years to move on and learn to live with it. You would expect that after that much time he would either have pulled the trigger or taken that one step too far and gotten himself killed. He wouldn’t still be pining away and sticking his gun in his mouth whenever he gets depressed.

So there goes my first scene. I was planning on opening the book with him having a nightmare about her death and reacting by reaching for his gun. Now I’m thinking that I should drop both the nightmare and the suicide attempt. I can open with him having a nightmare, but I don’t have to describe it. I can mention it, and leave the reader hanging as to what it was about. And I can work in something about his attempts at suicide as a reminiscence he shares with one of the other characters later on in the book. For now, I can simply get him up and moving towards meeting the rest of the cast.

So that’s what I’m working on now. I’m also rethinking how the whole University of Magic comes into play. I was planning on having the young mother he helps to get there be involved somehow, and I think that now I know how. They were going to be working on summoning spells, and maybe she could be involved by trying to contact her recently deceased husband.

I guess what I need to do is nail down how each of the major characters is going to fit into my story. The main character isn’t the only one that can have a story arc and learn something from their adventures. Maybe he can teach her how to deal with her pain. After all, he has been there himself.

As for my need for feedback, please leave a comment if you have something to share. Otherwise, maybe what I need to do is get back in touch with my writing group. I haven’t participated in several months, and maybe it’s time I check in and see how they are doing. I’m sure they could help me fill in the holes and brainstorm stronger plot lines.

That’s it for this week. See you next Sunday!

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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