There’s no time to party at Casa Jilly. We’ve now survived three weeks of building repair work, complete with regulation noise and mess. Many of the bathroom fittings are in the garden, looking like postmodern statuary. Everything inside the house is coated in plaster particles, including us. I have to clean the sofa each day before I sit on it.
I’d love to take a few days off until the dust settles (ha!), but there are only three weeks left until I fly to Orlando for RWA National, and I’m already behind schedule. I have to get my draft finished, and I want to spend some time planning how best to use my brainstorming session with Jeanne, Kay, Elizabeth, Kat and Michille.
The RWA conference timetable is crowded, but we’ve decided to carve out enough time for each of us to get the group’s input on a writing project of our choice. It’s a rare opportunity and I think I’m looking forward to our discussions even more than the conference itself.
I haven’t decided whether to ask for input on my current WIP or to go for a blue-sky discussion on the prequel novella I plan to start when I get home. Either way, I know I’ll get great suggestions; the challenge is to decide where I need the most help. And then to decide exactly what questions to put to the group so that I get the best result from the limited time available.
The great thing is that even though I haven’t seen the other Ladies since last year (Kay, Jeanne, Elizabeth) or longer (Kat, Michille), we can get to work quickly thanks to the time we spent together studying romance writing at McDaniel College. I enjoy brainstorming with other writers when I get the chance, but there’s something extra special about working with the McDaniel alumnae, because:
- We learned to critique together in class, so we share a vocabulary. When we talk about conflict, agency, infodump, beats, or sittin’-‘n-thinkin’ versus bodies in motion, we’re drawing on a hard-won shared understanding that allows us to talk in shorthand.
- I trust them not to pull their punches. If something isn’t working, I need to know, and I want the straight-up version, not some sugar-coated suggestion.
- I can ask them for the hard truth because I know they want me to do well, as I want the same for them. So I know the criticisms I get will be in my best interests, not a product of the critiquer’s own insecurities.
- We each have very different interests, strengths and weaknesses, so everyone brings something different to the mix.
- Nobody will be offended if I reject a suggestion, or cut off an avenue of discussion because it doesn’t feel right. That said, I prefer to let the discussion run, because often the best ideas come out of left field. And it’s amazing how often a suggestion I thought was un-usable pops up again later—almost as though the Girls need time to decide how to fit it into the story.
The only thing I’m looking forward to even more than brainstorming my story is getting to play with everyone else’s works-in-progress. I bet I get even more out of that than I do from my own session.
Right. Heads down and back to my WIP. I’m thinking Orlando might be my last RWA conference for a while, and I don’t want to waste a minute.
What’s on your agenda this weekend? Working or partying?