Maybe I've miss titled this blog, and maybe the tittle is right on the head, but either way here goes. Writing is a lonely endeavor. The best we can hope for as writers is that when we do poke our heads out from behind our keyboards, screens, or what ever you prefer to write on, there will be someone there waiting for those precious words.
For some of us, that need is ten fold, and culminates in workshops, critique groups, or real life writer meetings. Personally, I take the whole gambit. In recent years I've gotten much more serious about trying to craft my words into readable stories (that I don't feel completely terrible about trying to share).
If I'm going to submit something for review, or take the next step and have an actual professional editor look at my work I want to make sure it's as good as I can make it. I've sent copies of one manuscript to two different editors to see what the feedback would be like. I don't regret it, but in hindsight some of the suggestions made should have been caught by my real life critique groups.
Giving someone constructive criticism like, "I really like this piece." Is nice, but as a writer, I don't want nice. I want honest. I want someone to take out that proverbial red pen, and go to town on the things that are really wrong with my pieces. That rarely happens for me.
Does that mean my writing is just that good? No. It means I'm not getting the feedback I need to to make my writing better. It means that the people I've been letting read my work may not have the ability to catch some of the mistakes I'm making. Is that terrible, or the end of the world? Should I stop going to that particular group? No, because I still get to critique their work, which in turn makes my writing better.
Sometimes, even I forget not to be to much of a cheerleader though. I have to remind myself that most writer's who are honest with themselves (no not all of us are) don't want to make friends. They post their work to make it better just like I do. I try to never be a condescending ass when I give a critique either. I want to be as helpful as I can, and encourage others to post their revisions. But that takes work to.
It's easy to tell someone you like their piece, or what you would want to change if you'd written it. But that does not make a good critique. It's much harder to pin point parts of the piece that stick out and need work. I think I for one would much rather read a critique on one of my pieces that did that.
So that's it in a nutshell, if I ask you to critique for me, please be brutally honest, poke a stick at it, mark it up with as much red ink as you can spare, but expect the same. I'm not great with grammar (clearly if you read through all this and are still here kudos, I know it was rough,) but I'm much better with content. Anyway, enough ranting for now. -Happy Writing, Corbyn
At the beginning of August, one of my real life writing groups did a writing retreat. One of the ladies in said group brought her copy of James Patterson's online writing seminar. In it he said, "Be prepared to write, and write a lot. At least a million words. You'll go through them all, and if you stick with it doggedly, you'll get there, and find yourself not only a published author, but also one with a work ethic that will never fail you."
That really stuck with me.
When I started writing I was extremely young and naive. I came from a family that didn't really encourage those pursuits. (I can remember being eight and thinking, it would be really cool to write stories.) So my first real experience with writing, or writer's was online. I would wind up in chat rooms, especially the rp ones, and think wow. Look at all the cool stuff these people are coming up with.
It was both liberating in a way, as well as terrifying and more than a little intimidating. I was a country bumpkin, what did I know about the world, and how would I ever be able to do what they were?
Fast forward a few years, and I had out grown my rp groups. I desperately wanted to tell people stories, but not just any stories. Full long ones that would get them hooked in so they never wanted to stop reading. (I still want that.) I stumbled from chat rooms into the world of forums. But that then that to became to restricting.
I got disgusted with my progress and stopped writing for a while. I started playing video games instead. Then in 2011 I went back to college. There I saw the chance I had been waiting for. My local community college was offering a creative writing course. I thought, great... I'll finally get to learn how to do what I want to do.
It didn't go as planned either. I felt like I was a weird fish in a pond of college students who didn't really want to be doing what they were doing. Most of my class mates turned in five sentence poems when ever at all possible. (I have no problem with poems in general.) But I was turning in twelve page openings for short stories, and I didn't feel like most of them were being read much less critiqued. When the class wrapped up for the semester we all met at a local coffee house, and I found out just how wrong I had been. My professor confessed that he felt like I had a knack for it, and he and a few other class mates were sure I'd get published one day. It was a much needed ego lift.
But since 2011 I've found myself second guessing my writing, and doubting that this thing I want to do is a possibility. Most of that like other writer's is me getting in my own way, and I know that. But my point in this overly long blog is just that. Patterson's one million words comment stuck with me because even though I've struggled through the last four years, I have work to show for it.
It may only be three short stories, and two really crappy novella length works, but I've put in the words. I'm not at my million word mark yet, and I'm still figuring things out, but when I go back and read some of my writing from then versus now, or even some of the things I turned in for school, the difference is night and day. And on days like that I'm happy to do the work... no the words, because the words are taking me one step closer to my goal.
I don't do the work because I want to get published and make a lot of money. I do the work because I want to tell stories that people can't wait to read. I want to build places and characters that readers have to know more about. I want to grip people by their proverbial shirt fronts, grab their attention and leave them begging for what happens next.
I write because I can, but I'm a writer because I choose to be.
I found myself kicked back into a relaxed slouch, my body nuzzled into the soft leather of the couch. Absently I popped a cheesy corn chip into my mouth as I scanned the television channels. What a great invention television is, it’s one of the few forms of “entertainment” that you humans have invented that really does you no good what so ever. It’s mind numbing, and for that I am intrigued.
I hated being kept waiting, and that was exactly what Arian was doing. I found myself scanning infomercials waiting for my very own personal pain in the derriere to show up. I guess in polite terms you could call her my partner.
I was torn between sponge bob square pants, that squid was kind of funny, and another episode of Tom and Jerry. I loved watching the pair carry on, it just never got old watching senseless violence, so much like home. I was starting to think about the coziness of hell fire and brimstone when I heard a plop.
“How can you watch these mindless shows?” Arian’s voice was pitched a little higher than usual.
I shrugged, “What else do I have going on?”
“You could have found some useful employment.” She was working in far more jabs than usual.
“What’s the assignment this time, a nun, priest, a kid with cancer?” I frowned swinging my head to look her full in the face as I popped another chip lazily into my mouth.
Arian scoffed and grabbed the remote from my hand turning off the tv, “You lazy demons..”
“Ouch my pride! That really hurts Arian,” I gave her my best fake smile.
Possible new opening to a story I had started months ago... Looking for some feedback from those who read the original version posted here... Just wondering if it makes for a better opening...
The bus swayed every now and then jumping as the shocks corrected after a bump. The speakers in the rear of the vehicle crackled cutting through the sound of a country fiddle playing a run of notes. You southern people, I have never understood your fascination with country ‘twang’ as you call it. My mind roamed in an auto pilot state listening to the fiddle and the accompanying singer.
“The devil went down to Georgia; he was lookin’ for a soul to steal...”
I smiled to myself whistling along with the tune as I toned out the bodies jarring into me every now and then. “He was in a bind, ‘cause he was way behind and was willin’ to make a deal,” I sung to myself.
Of course I, Caleb Monroe had never been to this Georgia, and I was no Devil, but I have never been a saint either.
I joined a writing guild in the next town over, and it has been inspirational to say the least. Saturday I will be attending a writing conference in Amarillo. I'm not sure what to expect but I think it will help bring me out of my cloistered little shell, which I need.
The first (admittedly the only) meeting I have attended so far was around the first of December, the following being in a few weeks. Anyway, at this meeting they did a potluck sort of gift exchange. It was neat because I walked away with a resource book. I don't typically read these because I feel that the best thing I can do to become a better writer (besides reviewing more) is to write more. So the book sat on a shelf in my office through the holidays.
I got bored and broke open my little book and began to read. One suggestion that I have taken away from it is to know what kind of writer I am. Mainly I'm a procrastinator who doesn't actually work well unless I have a deadline. I rarely finish what I start, and I project hop like crazy. I'm not saying that is a bad thing, it just is because I never finish anything.
So that brings me to the gist of it all.. The book recommended looking for a writing sponsor. This isn't like a twelve step program... the sponsor shouldn't be someone you spill your heart out too about your boyfriend or horrible day.
This "sponsor" should be someone you check in with on a scheduled basis. Someone who says.."How's the writing coming? Are you close to your goal?" Basically someone to remind you that you've set a specific goal and someone to make sure that your accountable for pushing toward what ever it that you've set goal wise for your writing.
As cheesy as it is, I've never thought of writing this way. To set a specific goal for myself then actually hold myself accountable for it. Writing has always just been something I've done for school or because I thought it was fun. Which it is.. but I'd like to finish a project to.
So my point in all this is that I'm going to try it.. Especially since I haven't really written anything new in a good while.
Here it is.. My goal: To write two new chapters for poor little Corbyn by February 20th. It's an extremely modest goal but class starts again next Tuesday so I need to be realistic.
So now that my goal is set and I've decided on which project to focus on I need to find someone to sponsor my effort and verbally remind me every once in a while that I am accountable to myself and I do have a deadline.
Do I really need a baby sitter so to speak to do this? NO but a little prodding never hurt anyone.. So that's my plan...
Let's see what happens!
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