writing groups

Over the summer I got the bright idea to use one of those white-board calendars to plot my writing course over a three month span of time. I think I made it to week six before illness and deck construction ran me off the rails. But I haven’t abandoned the idea because it helped me complete a revision of a novella I first wrote about 12 years ago and is now sitting, waiting again for a final polish before being shipped off to the wide world of publishing.

I have so much to do despite the fact that in the last week plus I have written two pieces for 50 Something Moms, finished/submitted my flash fic election horror piece for the Apex contest, and created two Facebook groups for my writing groups while helping plan the joint anthology for next spring. 

I am not at all certain why I thought the anthology was such a great project to take on. It’s not like I don’t have a memoir to write for NaNoWriMo in November or another website to administer since I also let myself be talked into serving on the Strathcona writing groups board as the website manager.

I don’t think I was this busy when I had a job.

So, I need my calendar thingy again. Today one of my “to do’s” is the calendar. Another task on deck is getting my blogging obligations outlined and hopefully drafting a few. 

I am up to three blogs that I actively contribute to in addition to this site and not counting the website managing gig or the blog I need to create to go along with that. One would think there should be money in this somewhere, but still I toil in relative obscurity. I guess that is where everyone starts, who isn’t the child or spouse of someone famous.

Sixteen days until I disappear into memoir writing. I am kind of looking forward to writing it. Mostly looking forward to being done with it. Another widow – a 9/11 casualty – whose novel I will be reading and reviewing in December, wrote on her blog yesterday that she was uncertain how to follow the book up. Talk about her search for “happy ever after” or her journey from New York to the West Coast. It got me thinking about the focus of my memoir. I had thought to concentrate mostly on the after. After Will was diagnosed. After he went into the nursing home. After hospice. After death. After the first months of widowhood. There are so many things now that I simply can’t recall with a high degree of accuracy or that are just not share-able. Is that a word? But I am guessing most people know what I mean. Even a die-hard blogger like me doesn’t share everything. Some events are mine or mine and my late husband’s or mine and Rob. I don’t write about those.

Which brings me to the reason I need to organize the memoir’s direction beforehand. I don’t want to spend too much time wandering in the desert. I have only 30 days and hopefully I will surpass the 50,000 words. It needs to really be twice that length which means writing about 3,000 plus words a day. Not out of the realm of possibility. I can easily crank about 2,000 a day if I am focused and have an idea of where I am going.

NaNoWriMo means getting my blogging house in order. I need two pieces a month for both my other blogging obligations, and I have ideas so the thing is to draft/revise before the end of this month and get them slotted. I also need to get a bit of blogging ahead done here. I am woefully neglecting my dear readers and readers, however dear, are fickle and go where there is reading to be done.

I have what feels like a ton of urban fantasy to finish (I discovered during the month I spent at the workshopping site that I am not writing pure sci-fi but in a genre called urban fantasy – who knew?). I am pushing it back to December. One of the things they recommend doing after a NaNoWriMo is putting your manuscript aside for a month and then coming back with fresh eyes to read and revise in January. And that is what I am going to do, therefore December will be urban fantasy month for me.

In between all of this I have writing group business including: monthly meetings, board meetings, anthology preparation, and a publishing workshop. And also the daily life stuff of husband, children, house, dying father, grieving mother, yoga class, and reading.

Man, do I have reading to do. My Bloglines is so backed up it is groaning. I do apologize if I am not commenting much. I just have so much to read that I don’t often get to it all in one sitting and sometimes my mind is too empty to find words. Would a “hi, I was here” be acceptable? Somehow that seems very trite.

A few things before I leave off for today:

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And so I am off to organize the writing machine which is me.

After a long day in the lice trenches, my darling husband insisted that I still head to Sherwood Park for my writing group meeting at the library. It turned out to be a welcome end to the day.

The Strathcona group is different from the Fort group. The Fort meetings are more structured. There is a presentation often times and someone leading the meeting. I took my turn last week and talked about publishing options and blogging. Strathcona has more writers who seem to be actively working on novels and we spend more time listening to each other’s work. They also self-publish with an anthology and organize writing workshops that are held at the library. I like both groups. I like the people and I take something from each experience.

Last evening I am afraid I monopolized a bit because I have been very busy writing since Christmas: poetry for an on-line magazine that was seeking submissions, another short story for my sci-fi story series, two pieces for a flash fiction contest, the start of my haiku’s for another e-zine and then finally a short based on a story Rob told me about Shelley. The group really likes my sci-fi series and I admit I am proud of it myself. Rob and Jordan have been reading pieces as I finish too. I think Jordan likes them a little more than Rob but it is the kind of subject matter that she finds more appealing than he does.

One of the comments I get from the Strathcona group often is that I have a strong voice as a writer and it lets me get away with breaking the sacred writing rules of fiction. Most notably the “show don’t tell” rule. Much as I love the compliment, it makes me wonder about this “voice”. Who I sound like that is so different from me and where does it come from? Being able to write is a gift, I know, but I still wonder about it.

In addition to my readings, Nathan read a poem that he’d written inspired by a Canadian Armed Forces recruiting commercial. Nathan is an interesting young man. He might be Farron’s age. He lives at home with his parents and his mother also attends are writing group. He has a limp which I am not sure if it is related to his short stature or not. He appears to be a little person but again it’s just an observation and not based on anything he has said. He’s very smart with a wicked sense of humor that I think Jordan might appreciate, but I am not in the match making business where my step-daughters are concerned. I think they are perfectly capable of meeting young men on their own. Match-making is a dangerous pastime anyway. After Nathan, Rebecca read her latest revision from a fantasy novel she is working on based on World of Warcraft characters she has created. I believe she is on her second revision. She is a very visual writing. She creates elaborate settings and is quite well versed in mythology. I love listening to her read. She has a Dutch – maybe – accent that really lends to the writing she is doing. Finally Heinz read a couple of his poems. He is an older German man who always seems to have very sad love poems to read. Makes me wonder what his story might be.

The first part of group was catching up and the last part of group was devoted to up-comings. There are workshops starting next month again and running into April. There are several that appeal to me but Rob doesn’t have the timeline for Texas yet and I don’t know when he will start traveling for work, so I am not committing to any but the first workshop on plot right now.

When I got home, I found two very tired lice warriors. One at the computer in the kitchen and the other barely awake upstairs after a trying bath and nit-picking sessions. Which reminds me that I have laundry still and hair to check. So far Rob and I are clean. Fingers crossed that we stay that way.

So, I finished the Stephen King novel, On Writing, last night. A triumph for a number of reasons, the least of which is that this is the first book I have read in such a short span of time in nearly two years. My ability to read like a 14 year old bookworm was a sad casualty of widowhood that I would love to vanquish. I polished this novel off in just under four days. I actually read 60 to 70 pages in a sitting. I am quite proud.

And I learned a few things, one of which is that were I to take Mr. King’s advice as gospel, I should get back to my day job as quickly as the state of Texas will allow me next year. Fortunately for me however, I have read enough Stephen King to not be overly impressed by what he has to say about the craft and the requirements. I have loved a great many of his books (The Stand, The Shining, Salem’s Lot, Firestarter), but I have found an equal number of them to be beyond boring (The Heart of Atlantis, Bag of Bones, Misery) or uneven (It, Deloris Claiborne). For all his success, he is just a guy who writes at the end of the day. His opinions are worth considering but shouldn’t be the last word on the subject of writing.

I liked his advice on reading as much as possible. I read newspapers and Oprah and the occasional non-fiction tome and many, many bedtime stories. But, rarely read fiction and I miss it. Not just the getting lost in the prose part, but wondering how the author did it. Created people and gave them things to do and say and places to go physically, mentally and emotionally. I miss being envious of a really great idea or turn of a phrase. So, I will be reading even if it takes me a month a book.

I also liked the idea of having a writing space, quirks and a set number of pages to complete everyday.

The advice he gave on putting a novel away for six weeks or so after finishing the first draft was good too. Distancing is a good idea after weeks or more of being caught up to the point of a fly in a web. He was also right about just writing and not worrying about whether it is perfect or even good. Just get the first draft down on paper. His ideas on taking up another project in the interim was quite a good idea too.

I like the idea of an Ideal Reader and his thoughts that often it is the person with whom we share our bed. Who after all is more likely to know our best work from our just getting by and will know us well enough to be truthful? He was correct when he suggested not asking for opinions until you are ready to really hear them.

I was surprised that I agreed with his ideas on writing groups and workshops. He felt they run contrary to the idea that writers should write. Reflect. Read and take notes and edit. Share with a select few or one (the IR). And then revise again, or not. Writing groups with the constant sharing and vague (or mean) critiquing is not helpful or really necessary.

In the end I am glad I read it though I will probably still do things my own way most of the time.