Currently listening to: Shh by Frou Frou

Yesterday I met one-on-one with a writing friend. “IM” & I met via my writing group. She’s decided to step away from the group recently, but she & I have decided to keep meeting every couple weeks. We spent 4-hours talking about writing in general & our work specifically. I love when I’m around people who see things the way I do & who are going through the same writing struggles. It’s nice to be able to encourage, motivate, & help each other.

I had sent my pages to her late the night before, so she’d only been able to get through the first half before we met up. She was incredibly positive. I respect her writing & her opinion, so it was a great vote of confidence. She had the same criticism as everyone else–those damn transitions. But, she said I shouldn’t use my struggle with them as an excuse to take the easy way out & retreat to a linear timeline. She gave me some ideas on how I might be able to fix things. So, I’ll keep playing.

I also received feedback from my instructor on my most recent submission this morning. Overall, really good comments. This is some of what he had to say:

“You’re narrating from the emotional center of your character. This story so far is so emotionally raw and truthful. Your decision to write about an emotionally repressed character…is brilliant because the emotionality of the story is played entirely inside the character. From the outside she may look like a cipher, but her interior struggle is powerfully dramatic, without being at all melodramatic.”

Again, the pesky transitions were mentioned; but more so the opening one than the rest of them. He pretty much told me to just move forward for now & put the opening transitions on the back burner. I’m still going to work on them, but he’s right, I just need to move forward.

Feeling good. Next, & final, submission is due in 2-1/2 weeks. I’m supposed to be up to 50-pages by then. I’ll try not to leave it all to the last minute this time.

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I’ve received some comments back on my recent submission. I fear the structure I want to work isn’t working. Part of it still could be that I need more to ground the reader in the present moment before I switch to the flashbacks. I definitely can see that. I’ve felt that those bookend scenes have been a little sparse. So, once I flesh them out some more, I might be able to keep the structure I want. But, I’m starting to see that maybe I’m complicating things too much. Maybe linear does work.

Regardless of the structure issues, I’m still getting good reviews for plot and character. So, I feel that the story is fine & keeping readers interested. The bulk of the comments I’m getting are about the structure; so, I know that is what I need to focus in on.

As an experiment, I cut up my draft & rearranged it into a linear timeline. Now, I have 2 versions. I’ll read both & see what I think.

Tomorrow morning I’m meeting one-on-one with one of the members of my writing group. I actually really love her writing & she’s really good at helping me work through writing issues. I sent her my pages today to see what she thought. Her comments on the first couple pages raised the same issues that my class has been raising. So, no big surprises. Thus, the cut & paste for version 2. I’m looking forward to talking to her about it face-to-face.

So, keeping at it.

Dey via flickr

Image: Dey via flickr

Got back into my routine today. With my brother & his girlfriend here for the holidays & my injury, I haven’t been able to do my usual Saturday thing. So, this morning I went to my writing group. No writing today. When we finally did stop talking, I couldn’t get anything out. I went back & reread what I had (big mistake). Thought it was crap & didn’t know where to restart. I’d planned to stay a couple hours after we usually end. I’d fed the dogs early, before I left, & let them spend some quality time outside; so, I would have been safe til about 2. But promptly at noon, I gave up & packed it in.

On the way home I stopped off & got some flowers–yellow gerbera daisies. I’d missed not buying flowers on Saturdays the last couple of weeks. But it wasn’t something I could really pass on to someone else to pick up for me. It’s something I have to do.

Came home, put them in a vase & then opened up the windows & front door & hung out outside with the dogs. It was about 80 today. Absolutely beautiful. I love 80 degrees in winter, even if it is wrong on so many levels! Then, I put the stereo on, hooked up the iPod, and played The National & read. As I was sitting there struggling to write this morning, it dawned on me that one of the reasons I’ve been struggling with writing lately is that I haven’t been reading. I’ve been reading non-fiction, but I haven’t been reading fiction. I realized, I need to be constantly reminded how other writers do it. I need to be reminded that 1st person POV works. I need to be reminded that a reader can care about a fictional character’s life. I’ve read that some writers can’t read fiction while they’re writing; too worried that they’ll be influenced by it. But, I think I’m the opposite. I need to read fiction. I need to get lost in made-up stories, so I can get lost in my own. So, I sat down in the big leather chair, propped the bad leg up on the ottoman, & sat down to finish reading The End of the Story by Lydia Davis. I started this book before my mother died, & hadn’t picked it up since then. For the past 16 weeks I’ve had trouble sitting down & reading fiction. Maybe a fear of letting my mind wander; even if my mind was supposed to be wandering in the author’s world, I was too afraid it would wander somewhere else. I also haven’t been such a big fan of the quiet that I usually require to read. But today, it felt alright. I don’t know why or what was different today. But I could sit down & read & I wasn’t afraid of my thoughts drifting off, & they didn’t.

So, we’ll see if reading gets me back on track with writing. (more…)

Yesterday I spent sometime reading the little that I managed to write on my 2nd draft last month. I like some of it, but I feel like I’m about to fall off a cliff with it, or at least run head-on into a wall without braking. I don’t think I chose the right entry point this time around. My first draft runs chronologically, with flashbacks thrown in. For my 2nd draft, I got the idea to come into the story later–the question now is: how much later?

I think I might have gone too far into the story. I think I need to step back time wise. So, I spent the better part of my writing session today writing out scenes on post-it notecards (wonderful find!) & sticking them on the wall to try and figure out a timeline. I think I’ve found my in. It comes a little earlier & leaves more to be revealed over time. I think the problem with my first attempt was that I entered at a point where I’d have to reveal everything right up front for the reader to get hooked. Whereas, if I rewind the clock a bit I feel like I have more–more to actually make it to 300 pages.

So, while I didn’t exactly get a mentionable word count in today, I do think I made some progress in terms of thinking this out. And now, I can stare at the wall next to my desk & see it all laid out & move the pieces (notecards) as I need to until it makes perfect sense.