Writing Time

I am beta testing a new online writing class produced by a fellow member of Minneapolis Writers Guild. She’s a great writer, young and therefore tech-savvy. So the course ought to be good. (See Click Clack Writing for more. The developers say the course will be out early next year,)

The second lesson talks about writing space (I have a comfortably messy one) and time. Specifically, being purposeful about setting aside a time to write.

Ulp.  I was going to start drafting the fourth novel in May.  Today, I have bupkis.

You’re retired, right?

No, goddammit, I’m a writer now. My next career.

But you have plenty of time to write, no?  Because you’re,  uhh, re… a writer.

Umm. Theoretically, yes. Practically, not so much.

The last six months has been mostly devoted to publishing my first book, Fatal Score. That’s part of writing, isn’t it?  So the investment of maybe 500 hours is justifiable … particularly since I have a series.  Next book will be 200 hours.

Then there are the critique groups.  When we moved back to the Twin Cities, I was anxious to find a writing group. Sometimes anxiety over-produces. I’m in three now.  600 hours per year for meetings and reading submissions.  The critiques are great, and lead to a couple hundred hours a year of rewrite.

This year, that’s a 2/3-time job before the first new word goes on paper.

You said you’re a writer. You claimed it as your next ‘career’. Careers are by definition full time. So, what about the other 1/3?

Well, life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

November will see the launch of Fatal Score.  By February, I’ll be finished editing the audio version.  Some new words of the next draft will surely leak out before then, because the writing reservoir is full to overflowing.

But yes, I do need a goal.

On to lesson three of the new class.

Critique Groups and the Mirror

As I pass through the stations of writing skill improvement, I am realizing that I have a custom set of writing weaknesses.  I got a notion of it from critique groups … the same issues kept coming up again and again.  It was cemented by the editor who raked over my second novel with a fine-toothed linguistic comb.  The same problems kept recurring.  For me, it was leading a sentence with description, following with action.  (“Hearing a knock, John went to the door.”) Or having a character say something, then having me as narrator come along behind and tell the poor benighted reader what the character meant (rather that writing the character’s statement well enough to convey the feeling in the words). And so on. There were … ahem … many others.

Conclusory Bludgeon

Any Google search will provide a list of tens or even hundreds of these writing mistakes.  It’s a little less daunting that one’s own style features a few … not all … of them.

There is an advantage of critique groups that has only recently become clear to me:  It’s easier to see one’s own weaknesses in other people’s writing.  As in: “The scene is engaging, but in the second paragraph, Jason’s facial expression and sigh says it all.  You don’t need the sentence that tells us that Jason’s exasperated.”  Oops … wait a minute … I do that too.  But I don’t see it as easily (ego, perhaps?) in my own writing.

Critique of others’ work teaches me to look in the mirror, and … oops again.  You already knew that without the conclusory bludgeon, didn’t you?