Sunday, March 29, 2009

To My First Chapter

Dear First Chapter,

When we first got together and plotted the beginning of Blanche's perilous journey through St. Louis and the magic crimes there, things were very different. Blanche was Akemi and Japanese, you were bloated with too much telling and backstory. Now you've trimmed down, done the Self-Editing diet. It's done wonders.

And despite your accomplishments, you fail to make Blanche obvious to people. She's too scientific. If you don't start toning up that characterization and making Blanche the Best Person Ever, I'm afraid I'll have to fire you and go with Plan B.

Your Handler,


Thursday, March 26, 2009

On Writing Groups

Many writers, at some point, want to join a writing group. Having seen many people come and go, I wonder sometimes what people expected when they joined.

A critique group is just that - it offers critiques. Sometimes people receive a few critiques and then disappear. Others complain or completely ignore what people have said in favor of their original work. Sometimes the writer is right, but when you're in a group of people who've done this for a long time they're honestly trying to help people excavate that dingy bronze urn and shine it to a museum quality polish.

Two people I know eschewed virtually all suggestions and critiques given to them and self-published their books. Both were terrible, but with enough time spent learning the craft of writing, they both probably could have made it with a publisher.

Don't expect them to squeal over your story and be fans - you'll be more than disappointed. Do expect both good and bad points to be laid out for you. If there's a consistent thread of complaint, there's probably a good reason. The people who spend their time in critique groups are the readers and book buyers you'll one day want to attract. If your test audience can't figure it out, odds are the rest won't, either.

In all honesty, I've hung out with many different types of writers, and the ones who have taken the time to write their story, rewrite it even when they want the plot to go a different direction but the character says otherwise, takes the time to learn how to properly erect sentences, which give way to paragraphs and beyond, who go over their stories and truly listen to what makes it better, and are not subdued by the mountains of rejections they get - these are the people who succeed. The ones who try. The ones who earn it.

I'm grateful I'm in a writing group - besides giving critiques and suggestions like pros, watching other writers grow and hone their techniques is gratifying. On top of it, when other writers succeed in getting published, you get to carry the high along with them. It gives me hope for the end of the long-ass editing tunnel I'm currently in.

Which I am still enjoying. Editing is easy now that I am getting a grasp on fictional mechanics and structure.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Writing Seminar/Classes

I found out that there are creative writing courses I can take in my university I work at. The best part - I don't have to pay for any of them. In fact, one of them is a two week intensive summer course in June that I can attend. Now I have something to use up my vacation time that will really be a vacation - a vacation into worlds abound and I'll take that any day.

The pay sucks, but the benefits are wonderful at Wash U.

I'm so excited. I can't wait for summer.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Color Code my Revisions

When I'm going over a rough draft, I color code the document so I have an idea of what I'm working with editing wise. After finishing the first page of this first draft, I thought I'd post a photo so people can point and laug - I mean, appreciate the hard work that goes into editing a first draft of fiction.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Good News

Not the kind you get from the pulpit.

First, I want to congratulate my friend and fellow writer group, uh, groupie, Hope Clark on bagging an agent. What a huge accomplishment. And you earned it, girl. I can't wait to see the Slade stories in print.

Second, my short story "A Taxing Fixation" was selected for Sorcerous Signals' best of 2008 Anthology. Small pom-poms here for me - after receiving the fifth "we love your story but we don't have cash for it" response for Death Rites, I was kind of bummed.

Work on the novel continues. I cut huge swaths into the fabric of my world, and have had to adjust the story accordingly.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Work on my novel continues. I'm enjoying critquing for my writer groups, and it feels so, so good to be in the groove again.

I am taking a wee break on the short stories while I work on the novel. I'll work on them from time to time, but I'm frustrated by my rejection consisting of "We love it! But we're out of money." That's great to hear, but after the 5th time it gets frustrating. I'd rather work on something and see it grow my leaps and bounds. I need a project with some commitment.