Keeping Score: May 27, 2022

Steady progress this week. I’ve set a reminder to write, every day, and I force myself to do it. Even when I’m exhausted after a day like Wednesday, where I had a solid block of meetings from 7am till 1pm. I grab my notebook, set a timer for fifteen minutes, and don’t let myself do anything else till the buzzer sounds.

I’m not always drafting during that time. Sometimes, like this week, I’m brainstorming, looking for ways to punch up the current draft of the new story. Sometimes I’m outlining, like I’ve been doing for a new story that’s brewing in my head. But no matter what, I’m working for those fifteen minutes.

As a result, I’m about ready to do a second draft of the piece that started out as flash, and has grown into a short story. I’m also ready to do a first draft of a new piece, a horror story that first unlocked for me last year during a Clarion West online class, but sat on the shelf while I worked through my writer’s block. (Oddly enough, the current approach I’m taking to the story came to me during another Clarion West class, on Sunday)

Oh! And I wrote two more flash pieces last night, based on some prompts given out at the Victoria Creative Writing Group meeting. One of them is a fun little thing I might polish a touch and then send out. The other is yet another story I’ve been carrying around without knowing how to approach, and the second writing prompt of the night gave me exactly the right angle. I think this one might be a longer piece when I’m done, but at least I’ve got a first draft now, something I can edit into shape.

How about you? What do you do to keep yourself motivated (I take classes, apparently, and join writing groups)? Are you making good progress in your current projects, or does your writing process need a shake-up?

Keeping Score: September 17, 2021

Did I say I’d spend time outlining last weekend? How naive I was! No, last weekend was all house chores, with a single break — a fantastic break — to celebrate a friend’s new job.

So I did the outlining on Monday, and wrote Tuesday, and Wednesday was…a lost day…and went back to writing yesterday. And now it’s Friday, and I’ve only hit half my word count for the week. I’ve got some catching up to do.

And editing — that second flash piece I wrote last month needs another draft — and story submitting. It’s a lot to juggle!

But I’ve got today off, thank goodness, so there’s a good chance I’ll get some of it done before the weekend. And who knows? I might sneak some work in on Saturday or Sunday as well.

Meanwhile, the approach of fall has me feeling the need to be in a class again, leveling up my craft. I recently discovered Cat Rambo’s Academy for Wayward Writers, and its set of self-paced classes looks like just the ticket. I think I’ll start with the one on editing (since knowing when to stop editing is something I struggle with) and go from there.

Post-Game: Stephen Blackmoore’s Critiquing 101 Class

So this weekend I attended another online writing class, this one from author Stephen Blackmoore (of the Eric Carter series) on how to give and receive feedback in critiques. I’ve been exchanging feedback with other writers for a while now, but never really had any instruction on how best to do it; my techniques have been cobbled together from blog posts and Litreactor guidelines. I wanted to see if, frankly, I’ve been doing it right, or if I’ve been failing my fellow authors by giving them the wrong type of feedback.

It was Blackmoore’s first time giving the class, so it went a little longer than anticipated: 2.5 hours instead of just 2. But those two-hours-and-change were packed with excellent advice.

Some of it I’d learned the hard way, like focusing on the positive when pointing out problems. Or remembering that at the end of the day, the story belongs to the author, which goes both ways: you don’t have to act on all the feedback you get, and you can’t expect other writers to act on yours, either.

But the vast majority of Blackmoore’s advice were things that I had some sense of, but didn’t have a good way of thinking about. Like how you should treat each work not as good or bad, but as either complete or incomplete. A story that doesn’t seem to be working isn’t garbage, it’s just a piece that needs polishing. The difference between bad and good isn’t necessarily one of value (in the work or the artist), it’s a matter of time and effort.

All in all, I took almost twenty pages (!) of notes. Blackmoore did more than cover general ways to handle feedback, he also did a detailed break down of six different aspects of a story to examine when offering a critique, and ways to identify — and talk about — problems in each one.

In short, it was a fantastic class, and one I wish I’d had years ago, before I tried to offer any other writer feedback on their work. I highly recommend taking it if you can, when he offers it again. And I’m going to start incorporating his advice into how I give critiques to others going forward.