Kay: Quiz for Y’all: Must I Show the Wedding?

Dear readers, I need your help again. I have finished book three of my interminable trilogy about Phoebe and her steadfast beau. Brimming with triumph, I showed the final two chapters to my critique group last night, and…they didn’t like it.

Here’s their problem. After three books of Phoebe’s not being ready to get married, now finally at the end of book three, she’s ready. Our hero has a Plan, and she says, surprise me.

The surprise is taking all the book’s characters back to Las Vegas, the city where they met, where they will be married in the wedding chapel by the people who first employed Phoebe when she arrived in Vegas at the start of book one. (Now they live in Washington, D.C.) The final scene of book three is everybody just boarded the plane, ready to rest up from the vigorous trials of the day before and me tying up loose ends. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Muffling the Inner Critic

Okay, technically I’m not suggesting you go out and get drunk as part of your daily writing practice (unless you want to, of course, or you’re channeling Hemmingway), but there is a nugget of wisdom in the quote above.

It has been suggested a time or two, by people who know me, that with the addition of a little alcohol (a modest amount, not a “hold my hair while I retch” amount), I’m ever-so-slightly more charming and delightful.  I’m not much of a drinker, so just a small amount goes a long way toward giving the world a happy / soft-focus appearance and making stress and worry step back a bit.  It also does a great job silencing that inner voice that always seems to be worried about saying something dumb or doing something embarrassing.

When it comes to writing, your version of “drunk” may mean kicking off your process by listening to your favorite playlist, relaxing in a warm bubble bath, or doing a little mind-clearing meditation.  Whatever helps you get your mind in the story, and drowns out that voice that insists on judging every word you put on the page, is a good thing.

I’m out of bubble bath, but I’ve got a nice bottle of port in the kitchen, so I’m going give it a try (for research purposes, of course).  If it doesn’t help me get some words on the page, at least I’m likely to get a good night’s sleep.

So, what ways have you found to silence your inner critic so can focus on getting words on the page?

Kay: Hitting a Wall

I’d been progressing well on the WIP, galloping along at what for me is top speed, until this week, when I hit a wall. I’d written through my first act and was heading into the second, otherwise known as the Middle. And in my case, although barely begun, the Sagging Middle.

I queried my critique partners, who are only too familiar with the problems of Phoebe and her errant friends and fiancé. What to do? I asked. Within minutes, I got a reply.

What’s your story question? Patricia asked.

Ah, yes. What was my story question?

It’s not good if you don’t know your story question. A person can go down a lot of rabbit holes if she doesn’t know what she wants to say. Continue reading

Jilly: Evaluating an Edit Report

So how’s the New Year shaping up for you?

I started January with a new challenge—deciding how to respond to my very first professional content edit. I’d previously seen the excellent report the editor, Karen Dale Harris, wrote for Jeanne’s The Demon Always Wins, so I knew roughly what to expect. That didn’t mean I was ready for it.

The overview/summary report alone ran to 24 pages, and covered everything from subgenre choice and the implications of that, to characters, conflict, plot, plot holes, world-building, language choices, inconsistencies…you get the idea. I’ll just say that it’s not a comfortable experience to have one’s every last choice subjected to such detailed scrutiny. Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNo Progress Report – A Big Hot Mess

Cue the trumpets, toss the confetti, and raise your glass, it’s time to celebrate the rapidly approaching end of NaNo.

About an hour ago I typed my two favorite words – “The End” – and uploaded my final word count and manuscript for validation.  As a NaNo “winner”, I have the lovely graphic you see over to the left and a 50,007 word manuscript that can best be described as “a big hot mess.”

My NaNo got off to a slow start this year (I may have slept through a few writing sessions), and there have been a few days with less than stellar word counts, but being off work last week gave me a chance to really focus on writing and get a large number of words on the page that can probably best be described as “quantity” rather than “quality.”  There are most certainly plot holes you could drive a truck through, and it’s littered with notes like “something needs to happen here,” but the draft is done.

Yay!

Once the excitement of finishing the draft cools, it’s time to think about what to do next. Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNo Progress Report – The Sagging Middle

No, I don’t mean the after-effect of holiday eating or what happens when the elastic in your gym shorts breaks, I’m talking about what happens right about now during the month of NaNo.

We’re at the mid-way point; probably the most challenging time of the whole month.  The initial excitement of the first week, when stories were fresh and new tends to fade about now and be replaced by daily word counts that are a little more challenging to hit and creative ideas that are a little harder to come by.

For some – those whose stories are rolling right along – this can be an exciting part of the process where the germ of a story idea has taken root and grown into something even better than first imagined.  For others, this can be the time when what started out as a great idea now looks like a tangled mess with no discernible resolution.  You may have written yourself into a corner, or noticed you don’t actually have any solid conflict, or realized that 10,000 words ago your story took and unexpected turn and now you don’t know what’s next.

It can be tempting at this point to read over what you’ve written so far and do a little editing.

Don’t do it. Continue reading

Jilly: What I Learned at Gollanczfest

Good writing craft workshops are like London buses—you wait for ages, and then three come along at once. Today I’ll be finishing up my second workshop in as many weeks: the fourth and final day of Robert McKee’s legendary Story. It’s an add-on dedicated to Love Story.

All being well, I’ll report back on my Four Days of McKee next weekend. Today I promised to report on my takeaways from Gollanczfest (click here for my previous post about the event.)

Firstly, and most importantly, I had a fantastic time. I made a note to self that it’s worth attending some kind of writing-related event at least once or twice per year, simply because it’s inspiring and energizing to spend time with other writers.

Last weekend the writers were all about sci-fi and fantasy, so the talk was of worldbuilding, dragons, AI, dystopia and space opera. The discussions around process were entirely familiar, likewise the challenges of plot structure and character building. It felt strange that nobody made much mention of community or relationships. Continue reading