Tag Archives: writing group

My writing group and the mysteries of the blogosphere

I’m confused.  I came online to write a brief blog post, guilty for my absence and meaning to whine a little bit about my post-holiday work schedule while giving a brief update on my writing group, in hopes that my status as a “real writer” would excuse my recent absence.

But when I logged on, I found that somehow, miraculously, I had 28 visitors today.  Now that is not a lot of visitors, granted, compared to some blogs which received hundreds or thousands of hits a day.  But considering I haven’t posted anything for four days, I am slightly stunned.   Doing the math for visits since New Year’s, I’ve had almost 100 visitors in 2011.

I can only imagine that all my readers returned from Barbados or whatever sunny clime in which they were vacationing and thought to themselves, “Gee, I wonder what Karen is up to?  Guess I’ll check out her blog.”  So, thank you for your patronage.  Sincerely.  The alternative is that I get tons of visitors the less blogging I do.  That seems counterintuitive.

But to circle back around to my excuses, I really did have an excellent meeting tonight with my writing group.  Addy’s book Signs of Murder is coming along very well and it was a pleasure to talk about her work.  I’m on board for our next meeting, which means I have to be ready with 30+ pages in less than two weeks.  (Consider this my excuse in advance.)  Claire follows me and she will be giving us everything but her final chapter.  Our assignment:  To say who we thought is the murderer and why.  She will then release the final chapter to us.  I am hoping for a big prize, but she is making no promises.  Then, back around to Sue who has two books going at once (over-achiever!).  A writing group is great – I heartily recommend it.

I must take my befuddled self off to sleep, so goodnight all.

Arrivederci, Jennie!

Our writing group has lost its second author… it’s not terribly surprising, all groups go through ups and downs, but it is disappointing.  Getting what you need out of a group, while giving the others what they need, can be a real balancing act. Ultimately, only the writer can decide if the group is right for her.  (Or him, of course.)

I’m pretty focused.  I don’t need a lot of chit chat about personal lives.  It’s not that I’m not interested, it’s just that we only have 90 minutes every three weeks! I like to hear what the reader liked and didn’t like.  I want to know about things that slowed the reader down or anything confusing.  Comments about the characters (likable?  scary?  not very nice?  too over the top?) are welcome.   I’d really like help with the entire story arc and plotting, but that’s a little difficult to structure.

I do get a lot out of the group.  They pointed out that the protagonist in my current book was awfully blase about sudden death and that all in all, she didn’t come across as very warm and friendly.  As this is the second Paula Berger book, I really didn’t realize that all the nice detail regarding Paula’s backstory, her spunky personality and awesome improv skills – not to mention her loving heart and her fatal flaw of stubbornness – were all in book 1.  Anyone starting to learn about Paula in book 2 would not be privy to all that.  So, rewrite city.  You really have to take it seriously when four other people all say the same thing!

Maybe it helps that I have 25 years (or more, I don’t really want to count) of copywriting behind me.  I’m pretty good at being open to criticism and taking what I need while leaving the rest behind.  Also it probably helps that nobody is too harsh!  (No one said “I hate Paula.  She’s mean.  And rude.”)

So, this group is good for me!  But they do vary quite a bit.  Some meet weekly.  Some read scenes aloud.   Some take turns.  Some read something from everyone’s work every time.  This group is actually my third group.  I quit my first because they weren’t focused enough.  My second one was fun and helpful but fell apart because people’s lives were changing.  (One got married. One started law school.  One enrolled in a low-residency MFA program.  Etc.)  The current group is still evolving and, I like to think, not doomed.

So I’ll miss the sunshine of Jennie’s enthusiasm and her sincerity, totally get that she needs to follow her own path, and hope to see her at writing conferences and elsewhere (such as the “new fiction” section at Borders!).

Resolution: Keep living the literary life

Friends and readers know that I had resolved to get an agent in 2009.   Sadly, missed that one, but I did get lots of extremely nice feedback from agents who blamed the economy and the tightening publishing market for not picking up Character-Driven, my first-in-series mystery featuring former actress Paula Berger.  Kind of took the wind out of my sails for the second book in the series, In Scene.

But, by working with Addy, Michele, and Claire to found a new writing group, I gave myself a kick-start and things are humming nicely, with about 80 pages complete that I’m pretty happy with and the next few chapters all outlined.  It’s fun and you’ve got to have faith, right?  If you’d like to read the first chapter of this book, here it is:  InSceneChapterOne.

And I’ve been dragging my feet on sending short stories out.  I’ve got some literary shorts and then some mysteries/crime stories, many of which feature a Chicago detective named Kathy Martinez.  It’s tough to decide where to send them after Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen reject them.  But then, out of the blue, I got an email from author Robert Friedman, thanking me for my reviews of his short stories on the audio shorts web page, Sniplits.  (Go there!  It’s awesome!  You can fill up your iPod and enjoy your treadmill time much more.)

He suggested I might enjoy his story, The Actor in the Family, published in Story Quarterly Online.  (I did.  He’s a great storyteller and there’s always a little something extra by way of character development.)  We emailed back and forth a couple of times, and wow!  He turned me on to a new resource.   Authors in search of publishing options, check out Duotrope’s Digest.

Duotrope is more than just a listing of publications, it’s interactive with a snazzy search feature.  Pick your genre, pick your theme, pick the length of your fiction, pick your payscale… and you end up with a list of publications that might want to buy/publish your work.  Searching for mystery short stories, any theme, token payment or up netted me 30 publications (including Hitchcock and Queen, of course).  There’s a separate search function for poetry.  Fabulous!

It seems like the fates are conspiring to keeping me living the literary life in 2010… and that’s just fine with me.  Unlike resolving to eat healthfully, exercise faithfully, and become fluent in French, resolving to live literarily is like resolving to hug my pugs…easy to do, and rewarding, too.