The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Who Should You Be in Your Writing Critique Group?

       Last night was the WWWPs writing critique group. While driving home after almost three and a half hours of solid work time (and if you know Sioux, you know there was no off-task talk, no sanctioned eating of chocolate, and no levity...  there's no room for laughter when we're working on writing), it occurred to me that I should take on other people's personalities when we meet.

photo courtesy of

       For example...

      I need to be Shirley McClaine. McClaine is the master at channeling others. When it was my turn to share--and while the other four writers were reading my piece--I reread mine and even then, I was crossing out unneeded words. I had revised it several times before last night... but unconsciously, I was thinking What words would they consider unnecessary? What phrases can I do without? What parts would they cross out if it was their piece?

      I should be Clint Eastwood. I need to squint more and talk less. Okay, I shouldn't squint more, 'cause that would result in more wrinkles, but I do need to narrow my focus as I examine what habits make the WWWPs so successful as writers... habits like perseverance... a workhorse work ethic... an unwavering commitment to their craft. And the more I listen to others, the more I'm going to soak up. Do I feel lucky? Well, do I, punk? Writing doesn't usually involve luck. It involves daily dipping into our reserves of ability and talent and having faith in our weapon--our pen, our pencil or our computer. 

    I need to be Nathan Lane. Lane is himself. He's comfortable in his own skin. Lane even flaunts his personality, He doles out the compliments in a bubbly manner... and he's never afraid to have a little bit of fun at his own expense. (Okay, maybe I can skip Nathan Lane. After all, I'm way too comfortable in my skin, and nobody wants any more flaunting of Sioux than is already taking place.)

          Who do you need to be as a writer? Chuckling minds want to know.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

It's All in the Timing

          This weekend I finished Stephen King's Revival.  There were times I should have been working on my report cards a couple of weeks ago, but instead... I was reading King. There were times that I should have been reading my book club book*... but instead, I skimmed to the end of that one and read every word of Revival.

             It's not my favorite King novel. That honor would probably go to Delores Claiborne... or Misery... or NOS4A2. (Whoops--that's a doozy written by his son, Joe Hill.) However, it was religion and electricity and drug addiction and rock and roll all rolled into one book. I tumbled downhill until I got the conclusion--thoroughly entertained the whole way

           I happened upon this book in an odd way. I was at a dog rescue event, there was a silent auction, I decided at the last minute--right before the bids closed--to check out the auction,  and this book was there--with only one bid of $5... So, for $7 I got a looks-brand-new hardbound Stephen King book and a dog rescue group got a $7 donation from me.

           The book has a conversational tone. Jamie, the narrator, sometimes just rambles on, and the reader gets to know that character through the ramblings. (Most of the time, it's unspoken and internal.)

           As I read, it hit me. I need to create a conversational thread like this in my WIP. It would fit the tone of the story, and since I'm the Prime Minister of Rambling, it would be an effective way of fleshing out my narrator.

           So why did I make a spur-of-the-moment decision to check out the auction? Why did I bid on this particular item?

           I think it was the right time to get this help--help straight from Stephen King himself...

            The book I was reading for my book club was Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. We all decided:

  • The book taught us a lot about the role of a dressmaker in the 1800's.
  • The novel reminded all five of us how emotionally unstable Mary Lincoln was.
  • If the author had written it in first person, and did more research, she might have ended up with three-dimensional characters. Unfortunately, the book seems more like a Civil War rehashing and not an I-care-about-and-believe-in-the-characters novel.