Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category
Yet another month of writing class. I am an absolute failure with my resolution thus far, but I am trying. I am getting more into the groove of writing. Thinking of the story more and working out plot points in my head. I just need to get better about actually sitting down and putting it to paper. I am in the process of doing things around the house so hopefully when I’m done I can devote more time to the novel because I still would like to be finished by the end of next year.
For this class I submitted the next five pages of the novel. It included the main character starting to tell her story from when she was a child and it takes place in Atlantis. The story opens with her describing Atlantis as her father and her travel to the outer port city. In stories they usually tell you not to start with a description so although this is 7 pages into the novel it is the opening of her telling her tale. And I was torn because you need to understand some of the geography and situations of Atlantis to understand the story, even from the beginning. So I submitted it as is and was curious to see what my teacher thought.
It went over really well. The other gentleman in the class (we’ve shrunk from 10 people to 2 lol) was so intrigued by the description that he drew a rough map. I had edited down the description so it was simpler but he said he thought I should leave it longer because it was “intriguing.” There was a lot less negative comments (because I got to spend a lot more time editing lol). And he said that again he wanted to read more and to find out where it was heading.
The map 🙂
My teacher kept using the word “fascinating.” “This is fascinating stuff, just fascinating.” He said that he did think I should open with a bit of action and we talked about what I thought would work, which he agreed with, and then move into the description which he also said he thought that while usually less is more for descriptions in this case, since Atlantis is so rare and unique, that more would be great for the reader. So he said “I think you really have something here.”
We then talked more about my story and the other students.
The head of the program was there again and we found out that she would be teaching our last class. Instead of submitting the next five pages we are to write our one page query letter (for agents or publishers) and a one page synopsis that would go with it. We then spent the rest of the class discussing publishing, getting an agent, getting published etc.
And then she said something amazing!
She said that workshops and classes like this were good because the teachers often worked in publishing and knew people. For example she said she had not yet read my story but from hearing it described it was intriguing/fascinating (lol) and that it sounded well written from the comments. There were three things needed for publication 1. Timliness (and she said the story was timely as nothing had been put about Atlantis in a while and the subject was close enough to the hot topic of vampires but different enough to not be a copycat) 2. Talent and 3 I can’t remember lol. Anyway she said that from hearing what she had she could think of at least two agents who would LOVE to read my novel. And she gave me their names! Of course she said nothing could be sent to them until I was 100% totally done and edited but still! I’m still giddy over this news!
Two agents who would love my book! yay!
She then chastised me that I hadn’t told her my topic. I just said that she hadn’t asked 🙂
So now I have to get to work on the query letter and synopsis. I have a small problem concerning plot. There is a bit over arching plot with smaller incidents along the way. In my head I can see this as a 2 or 3 book series. However she said agents hate to see books presented as a series. So I have to make sure the first one stands alone, but can hint at more to come. I think what I have in mind will work, but I’m not certain.
I really want to send those that asked/offered to read pages to see what you all think. I’ve just been so slow with editing. But I haven’t forgotten. Feedback helps me so much!
But again, still floating on the high of her comments!
To sum up… I suck.
I have been terrible at meeting my goal and it is just generally because of life. No excuses.
I did make quite a bit of headway with editing and was just going to send the 50-70 pages I have or so to the friends who asked/offered to read it when class hit last night.
For some reason I was terribly nervous about class. While editing I had begun to notice all sorts of style issues that stem from the fact that I wrote it nearly 15 years ago… and I know a lot more now than I did then. I’ve changed a lot as a writer. So I was nervous about what would be said. I was nervous about how my teacher would act in class and would he give me a fair critique….
It went well… the critique that I expected was there. There were a lot of redundancies and some pronoun issues that were called out, rightfully so. A few things were called to my attention that were very helpful. But overall it was really liked. One gentleman said that he found it humorous and could relate to the characters. Another man said he was sure he’d dated Sadira or a co-worker several times. They pointed out several lines that they liked or places they found fascinating. One of the best things I learned was that I have a wider market than I thought. I originally thought I was writing for females 18-35 mostly. But everyone in the class said they would pick up this novel and read it…. that puts my market much wider and includes men. That was exciting.
My teacher said this was very marketable… I believe his quite was “you really have something here”….
And as far as my teacher hating me… he seemed fine last night. Laughed at some of my jokes and was generally normal like he was the first night of class. One of the men called him out on the fact that he wrote a whole new short story and we (myself and the other woman) went ahead with our novel. Teacher said that he just wasn’t clear… but she explained that we had decided to go with our novel anyway. This time the assignment is to send in 5 pages of whatever we want… anything at all. I’m not sure now what I want to send in… the next five pages of my story move things along but may not be really reflective of what I want to show next. If I can edit up to some other more challenging parts of the story that might be best.
That is the good news!
The bad news is that with the errors I found and the errors pointed out to me I now realize I really need to go back and practically rewrite everything I have. It’s full of the same sort of old writing… and would not fit with the rest of the book if I continued writing.
I hate rewriting… so this fills me with dread. Not excited about this at all… although I am eager to start. Yes I’m contradictory and weird.
So there you go! I’m excited and bummed out all at the same time!
Those who wanted pages… I’m not sure. Maybe I can send you the crappy copy if you want… but it might be best to wait for the new improved pages 😉
Does it surprise anyone that I have slacked a bit?
I tried, I really did. But the past month has been C-A-RA-Z-EEEEE (crazy! lol). LA was sick, I fell super behind in everything…. so I was a bit late submitting my pages to my writing instructor for critiquing.
I wasn’t super worried about it because he hadn’t forwarded me anyone elses work so I figured it was ok. Turns out it wasn’t. I had missed the deadline (even though he had never told me there was a deadline) and he hadn’t sent me work because he assumed I wasn’t participating. Which was very irritating because I paid for the course, why would I not participate?
I wrote back and asked him to tell me when the deadline was for future reference and if he could send me the other students work so I could read it. He never responded.
I tried to contact the main person to find out if I could skip this weeks course and add one on at the end of the class (same amount of classes for what I paid). Her response was to come to class to talk about it…. which seems strange since I was asking if I could skip it.
So when I get there I get the distinct impression that she is there to “handle” me… she offers to refund my money if the course wasn’t working for me etc. I said that the class wasn’t exactly what I expected but I wanted to stay and was ok with it. I had only been curious if I could miss this week and add an additional week on to my time. She explained that there were not extra courses.. so I said fine. I was surprised she was there as my question was simple and I wasn’t trying to make a stink…. I just figured if I had nothing to critique for others and nothing of my own to critique I was somewhat useless. And again, I got the impression that my teacher asked her to be there… which was odd because I didn’t think I was argumentative in my communication with him.
During class he passed over nearly anything I said or offered.
Thankfully after everyone’s critiques there was time in class for me to read from Sadira aloud.
This was really good for me. I’ve been looking at it so long most of it felt dull to me or in need of work. But the other participants really liked it. They said I had an excellent strong voice and an easy to read rhythm. They pointed out several stellar sentences (their phrase not mine) and they laughed out loud in parts. It was good for me. My teacher’s critique? “You were reading too fast and I didn’t catch it.”
What?! If I was reading too fast why didn’t he stop me?
Then he drops the bomb….
When I signed up for the course the advertisement said the class was to help finish a novel. As I mentioned in a previous post it was pretty clear that the class was not really designed to help with the grand scale of helping finish a novel. So I was hoping I could polish key pieces of my novel and get feedback on my style and technical needs. He told us that we were to turn 5 pages in monthly and that we could submit parts of our novel, a short story, or the response to writing prompts he would supply. I remember this specifically because someone asked directly if we could submit continuing sections of our novel and he said yes.
So tonight he passes out an outline of a short story. Similar to ones I gave my high school students when I was teaching and he tells us that our assignment is to write a brand new short story. He DOESN’T want parts of our novel, he wants something brand new and to try to write a short story that follows the steps. This is so basic. I know the steps of a short story. I have about 20 short stories that follow this outline… heck, I TAUGHT this outline. I am not here to do this.
Granted, it’s not as if it wouldn’t help… because again we can focus on style, voice, characterization etc… but I’m here to work on my novel!!!!
Another woman asks if we can work on our novel and he says, “Well of course you can do what you want…” and he went on to say that we could but heavily disapproved of. His disapproval was palpable. I wish I could remember exactly how he said it because it was good but the message was “You can do whatever you want but if you don’t do what I want I will not take you seriously and it won’t be the same and I won’t have as much to offer or help you with when your work is sent out you non cooperative, lazy, selfish, non team playing writer”
After class I went up to speak to him. I began by saying I was sorry if he took offense at my questions regarding the deadline for manuscript submission. He just kept giving me a condescending smile and not making eye contact. Said he hoped I could meet deadline this time. I said, yes on that note I wanted to ask about that. I reminded him that he previously told us we could continue to submit from our novel and that was really what I was there for. I was trying to have a conversation with him but he was clearly not having it. He again repeated that I could do what I want but basically that he didn’t approve…. a lot of shrugging and eyebrow raising. So disapproving.
I’m really disappointed.
I’m used to teachers liking me…. I’m annoyed that he seems to dislike me for no good reason. I’m annoyed because I feel like if I do what I signed up to do he will not take my work seriously and he won’t critique me as he would if I’d done his assignment.
I could easily pull a short story out of my “vault” or I could write a new one… it’s not a big deal but I’m trying to finish a novel… I don’t really want to split my focus or use a critique on something that doesn’t matter as much to me right now.
On the way out though another woman stopped me to ask if I had permission to submit from my novel. She had the same complaint and concerns that I did. She said she really liked what I read in class and asked if I’d send the first five pages so she could critique it for me and I could do the same for me. Better yet she said that she was going to submit the next portion of her novel so that we could both be “problem children” together and it wouldn’t just be one of us.
And on a bright note she told me that there is a local group that meets every Saturday morning for critiques. At this group you get five minutes to read and then everyone gives you input. You pay 35$ for the whole year…. so that might be really useful to me. If I had to have five minutes worth of reading every week it could be vastly helpful.
I stated in my last post about writing that I’d aim to write 5 new pages a week. I am not backing out on that goal but I did have to amend it. Before I can start writing new pages I need to go through and reread what I’ve already got.
It truly has been about 7 years since I worked on this project. On top of that when I go through and read I find error after error and issues. Generally I’m happy with it and occasionally even impressed with myself but it’s a first draft that I haven’t looked at in a long time…. so I can’t help myself from revising and editing as I go through.
Since I have quite a few pages I’m giving myself two weeks to do this and THEN will begin writing 5 new pages a week, minimum. I’m also taking notes and brainstorming things for when I start writing more.
On another note I’ve had at least two people ask if they will be able to read what I have here or elsewhere. Part of me would like to post what I have here for ease of sharing…. and I would love to get feedback. But I’m not sure it’s a good idea for privacy/copyright issue (I obviously have copyright on it the moment it’s written but if things get stolen it can be hard to rescue or claim them…. plus even having the idea out there could be bad, theoretically). Also, I would be posting A LOT over time, we’re talking about a whole novel and a blog probably isn’t the best place to comfortably read one.
So I think what I will do is occasionally post a bit here and there, maybe what I take to class plus other bits. And if you know me personally and want to read more just let me know and I’ll send it to you.
But you have to be kind and forgiving with your notes, bearing in mind it’s a first draft… and those notoriously rarely see the light of day, because they are so dreadful!
I headed off to my writing class last night full of giddy, nervous excitement.
I ended up taking both novels first few pages or so with me and figured I’d decide on the spot.
When I arrived in the back room of the recreation center I found a group of six men, one near my age, and one woman, not near my age. This surprised me a bit because most writing groups, conferences etc that I have been to are predominately female. They told me that the previous months class had about ten more students, not sure where they went.
There was a larger room attached with a giant game of BINGO going on, we could hear every winner! While we waited for the class to start everyone asked each other the writing question, “So what do you write?”
It’s a normal thing to be asked among writers but I so hate answering, especially because I write a variety of things and rebel at the idea of being tied down to one genre or label. I’m not even sure what I want to commit to so how can I tell others? So I went with fiction, fantasy, some historical, anthology, memoirs, mostly centering around female protagonists and one non fiction project.
The class started and I began to feel like I definitely should have taken the woman up on the offer to take the advanced class. All good information but things that I used to teach. I actually took a list because I was so amused that these were things that I always went over with my kids. At one point I even offered a couple exercises to help with some of his points. I found myself taking down notes to share with my students… you know prove to them that I know what I’m talking about… and then I realized that there really wouldn’t be an opportunity to share it with them properly (except here I guess). I was then momentarily bummed about not teaching, I really loved teaching the creative writing course.
So after we got a brief refresher/lesson we moved on to discussing the pages of the other students. They had each emailed to the others 500 words or so of writing. We went around the group to hear the notes and criticisms for each. This was obviously just listening time for me since I hadn’t received the work. I was also quickly coming to two conclusions. The first that this course might not be as helpful to me in finishing my novel as I hoped. If we were just turning in 5 pages each month I could easily slack and not do anything. I mean, I have over 100 pages of each manuscript in reserve, I don’t have to do anything to fulfill my homework requirement. Also the discussions were limited by the size of our sample, they would not truly be able to help me with plot points, sub plots and the questions I have about sustaining tension, character and interest for a full length novel…. But I also realized that while it might not be the class to help in the grand scheme of novel writing, it could still help me with writing style, voice and quality… all of which are good things. And then perhaps I could move to the advanced class to work on the larger issues.
The second point I began to realize is that this group of men (mostly) might not be the right group to help me hash out some of the character and plot issues in Plain Jane. Plain Jane is true womens fiction, not something that many men really read. While Sadira might be something those with in interest in fantasy etc might pick up, or at least be more likely to. Dagger (the Nazi era historical drama) might be most up their ally.
So when it came time for me to read aloud my pages I confessed that I had at least four novels that I had in various stages of progress (and just today I remembered two more!) and that I had brought two samples with me because I wasn’t sure which I should do. They suggested I pitch each story and let them vote. So I did.
When they first heard about Sadira they joked that they didn’t want to read about someone punishing women 🙂 (of course not!) but they quickly realized it would involve quite a bit of sex. It was a good conversation and they even joked I should put her in the Nazi story because “Everyone loves dead Nazi’s!” One man voted for Plain Jane because the genre is hot right now but the majority felt that I should work on Sadira because it is unique. No one could think of a story out there like it right now and since it’s similar enough to the vampire trend it would be hot, but it’s different enough that I wouldn’t be competing with that trend. Plus, they thought publishers would like the fact that I picture it as a 2-4 book series, minimally.
So they all voted for the “succi-bitch” as they were calling it. They seem like a good group to work with, lots of humor and interest in others writing. Several of the guys also put in their vote that they would be most helpful in commenting on any sex scenes I would need to write for the story line, they would love to read those first.
One guy suggested I make it a young adult novel because none of the current YA novels have really strong female characters but it didn’t take long for him to figure out (and the other guys to point out) that a story about a succubus is probably not going to be very PG.
Decision made… now I just have to figure out which five pages to send in to them for this first time. I think the first five so they know what is going on. Then I am going to resolve to finish an additional five pages every week during the class….
That should help me get close to finishing!
Of course then I wake up this morning and remember another novel I started a while back that I thought had a lot of potential, until I started rewriting it as a screenplay, about a man who accidentally sells his soul to the devil and is trying to figure out how to get it back… definitely a comedy. Next I start second guessing myself that maybe this group of guys would be more help with that one! lol I definitely have trouble committing to just one story!
So as I posted yesterday I have to decide which novel I want to really commit to working on.
At first I thought it would be Sadira… I was just feeling it more. But then I had a conversation with a friend of mine discussing the merits of each. She made a good point that since I know exactly how I want all the plot points and twists of both Sadira and Dagger to go I should go with Plain Jane, which is a bit more nebulous in my mind (I know all about the main characters but I have some less than clear ideas on how I want them to end up there). She pointed out that if I was going to a class with other writers that might be the group to hash those ideas out and work on the kinks…. excellent point. So now I’m confused again….
I have to go to bed and I also have to decide…
Here is the first five pages of Sadira and the first five pages of Plain Jane…. if you’d like to vote again I’m totally open to it (heck I may need the help! lol)… but I think what I’m going to do is take the first five pages of both and see what the class suggests I do. The instructor may have some insight into what the group can help me best with.
And just so you think I’m just a total indecisive mess let me explain why all the angst. I was lucky enough to have a NY Times Bestselling novelist mentor me a bit. She took me to lunch and went over my writing and gave me some great advice. One of the things I asked her was about genre since many of my ideas bounce from one genre to another. She cautioned me that whatever I published first could get me stuck with that genre for several years until I could develop a readership that would go with me into a new genre or that I could convince a publisher to let me publish a novel in a new genre or under a different name. If my first book was wildly unsuccessful I might be able to switch genres but would have to convince a publisher to give me another chance in a new genre…. so I feel like whatever I pick not only has to be good enough but something I’m comfortable sticking with for a while. And I hate having to choose 😦
By the way… I don’t necessarily expect readers to stick out all of the writing.. but if you do I owe you a cookie or a cup of coffee or something 🙂
I wanted to put it out there… because if I was reading all this whining I’d want to know what all the fuss was about 🙂
Oh and excuse any editing issues this would be first or second draft writing.
“I ‘m a home wrecker.”
a note on Sadira… I’m planing on changing the name of the novel and my protagonist… Sadira is tied with Penelope in my mind for what I would like to name a future daughter, Steve just has to be talked into it. I mean, isn’t it gorgeous and exotic? and then we could call her Sadie for added cuteness, All American factor… but it will not work if mama has written a novel in which Sadira is a professional home wrecker seductress 🙂
t’s hard to live in a place when you’re consistently plain.
That’s who I am.
Removed both texts for copyright safety. If you’d like to read them just let me know!
In keeping with my New Years Resolution I signed up for a Living Social Deal with a local writers group. They were offering courses for a reduced price.
I have previously taught Creative Writing courses but I also know you can always learn more and taking a class can be a good way to have deadlines and to be held accountable… so I signed up.
After speaking to their coordinator they said I could go in the advanced course but it was extra money, so I opted for the Intermediate course.
I actually missed the first class when I was in Texas. I just found out this week that my first class is this Thursday and I need to bring five pages of manuscript (preferrably for a novel) and since everyone in the class doesn’t have a copy I should read it aloud! Ack!
Reading aloud your own work is torturous for me… I never made my students do it.
So that is the first Ack!
The second Ack! is that I don’t know what to bring. I have four novels in progress, various states of “doneness” and one new one that has been bouncing around in my head dying to get out. I don’t know what to bring.
1. historical drama during Nazi era Germany.. star crossed lovers etc…he’s in Hitler Youth about to graduate into SS/Gestapo program, she is living under false paper and is a Jew
Young Adult novel– fantasy.. hesitate to write this one first as it’s harder to go from Young adult to adult rather than the other way around… so am nixing this one
3. Plain Jane- Womens fiction about a woman who fantasizes about the road not taken. She is pregnant and already has twin boys when contacted by her ex, the first love of her life. The real world is wearing her down and she dreams about what might have been, or could still be. Kind of a Jennifer Weiner/Jodi Piccolt sort of thing
4. Sadira- Fantasy sort of novel… have an idea in my head of it being a trilogy…. About a woman who becomes a succubus and her adventures from there… hard to describe but covers various parts of history and is clearly much more fantasy than 1 or 3
So I have to decide. Previously I had committed to Plain Jane… but I ran into some road blocks and stopped… perhaps that means I should pick it up and finish it up with this course…..