Bridging the Gap: pinpointing the problem

Wen Spencer, one of my favourite authors, has long advocated for writers to join a writers’ group*. I’m coming to really appreciate this advice, as I find that I’m getting a lot out of the local critique group I belong to. I just wish we met more frequently (as in having a the second monthly meeting that’s more of a writerly chat than critique).

I was thinking about this because I’m finding the group has really made me think about the story I’ve been submitting (we submit a chapter or less each month). There’s the basic level of ‘grammar/tense/spelling’, but I’m also finding myself examining things like story structure, plot arc a lot more deeply.

This isn’t always a happy thing, lol. The story I’ve been submitting is mostly unwritten (no surprise), but I never could quite put my finger on why. Examining it for the purpose of sharing with the group put it under the microscope, and now I know the problem; I’m missing a section.

I’d written the beginning, glossed over the next bit, and built a fairly strong plot line. I realize now that the glossed over bit is the problem. The future plot stuff? It’s the middle to end of the story. The glossed over bit, which in my head was little more than a bridging chapter, has to be more than that. It has to be the section where the characters are established, clues are mentioned, and the worldbuilding is done. In other words, that ‘bridging chapter’ needed to be the first half of the novel.

I’ve been trying to jump from the opening scene to the middle of the story. No wonder it wasn’t getting written; my inner critic was keeping me from making a huge mistake.

So yay, now I know what I need to be working on. Now I just have to actually figure out what will get me from point A to point C.

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* Many writers advocate this, but Wen’s the one who mentioned this recently on her Patreon, so I’m going with her.

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I survived!

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So the second critique meeting went well, and I didn’t run screaming from the room. Yay, me!

I admit, when I realized my printer was messed up and couldn’t print up all the stories the others had submitted, I was tempted to just not go. But I set my anxiety on mute and went.

And it was great. We definitely did end up chatting way too much, but fortunately we still had time to go through everyone’s submission and talk about what we did and didn’t like. I even managed to keep my mouth shut on a submission by a writer I’m growing to really dislike; I honestly don’t know how much of my criticism was due to the writer being an annoying prat and how much was due to the work itself, so I kept myself from going overboard.

I also found that I really enjoyed reading and critiquing (or beta reading, maybe). I was worried about making too many notes, but another critiquer (I know, it’s not a word) was even more verbose than I was and I really liked their input, so I’ll go for broke next time.

Best of all, we now have the option of submitting longer pieces every second month. I’m soo into that; I really did cherry pick one of my better scenes for the first submission, so this will give me more time to a) clean up the next scene and b) write more of the story. I’ve got maybe 10% of it written, so we’ll see how it goes. Otherwise I’ll have to bring in something else. Of which I have lots, so that’s not a problem.

Yay for critique!

Sharing stories

I know, I’ve been awfully quiet. Partly because nano was draining, but also because of nervous tension; I turn into a hermit when I get anxious, lol.

The local nano group has morphed into a local critique group. That means we’ll get together once a month, and critique each other’s work, all done in a positive, meaningful way.

The first meeting happened earlier this month. I was nervous, as we went from a regular group of 5 nano’ers to 8 people who want to read each others stuff. Three strangers, five people I expect to see regularly during nano, reading my stuff? Scary.

We spent the meeting discussing how the system was going to work; emailing out our pieces a few weeks ahead of time, privately sharing the actual critiques, then at the next meeting, we’ll each have 15 minutes to discuss them.

It was amazingly difficult to pick out something to send. Because we didn’t want to overwhelm each other with reading, we limited the selections to 1000-1500 words. Lol, most of my scenes are 2 or 3 times that! Trying to find something that was short yet also cohesive was… interesting.

Finally I picked a piece. And then I read it and reread it obsessively, trying to tweak it into shape. I’ve never done editing before, and I have to say it kinda sucks. Cutting out a sentence here, rephrasing something that was too awkward, trying to find better words than ‘thingie’; these are all hard!

I finished the edit yesterday, and then sat on it for 24 hours for no particular reason. This morning I refused to think about it too hard and, taking a deep breath, sent it out to be read and critiqued. Gah.

On the plus side, I’m now looking at writing more of that story, as scenes keep building in my head. On the downside, at some point I went from writing in 3rd person to 1st person, which I didn’t notice before I sent out the piece (the piece was all 3rd, but later scenes switched to 1st person). Now I’ll have to think about fixing that too.