Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Writemare on Elm Street + A Game

This week, I am in Maine on an unofficial writing retreat. I'm actually here for other reasons, but as those other reasons offered me the opportunity to keep working, I've decided to consider it a writer's retreat. My sister-in-law nicknamed this experience "Writemare on Elm Street" because she's a million times more clever than I am.

My main project this week is the editing/revision of the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Romance novel. You may have seen this picture on other forms of social media earlier in the week, but in case you missed it, here it is:

I haven't made it very far into the manuscript yet, but I can tell you that I am not a fan of how this story starts. Chapter Two will likely need a complete overhaul and rewrite. I hope it gets better. I mean, I know I've been calling it the terrible romance novel for a good long while now, but I don't want it to be a bad story.

My critique partners seem to have high hopes for it. They even liked the ending. So...maybe there's hope for this story yet?

Anyway, that brings me to the game portion of this post. It is my habit to go though a manuscript with a red pen and blue highlighter to better mark everything that I feel needs work. Occasionally, I go through multiple pens and multiple highlighters. And by 'occasionally', I, of course, mean every damn time. Second Nature, for example, required three pens and two highlighters.

So here's the game: How many pens and highlighters will this manuscript require? Post your guess in the comments below. Whoever's the closest without going over (Yes, we play by The Price Is Right rules...) will win a copy of the terrible romance novel when it's released (either ebook or paperback. Winner's choice. Unless that winner is outside of the U.S. Then it'll be an ebook because I can't afford international shipping.). If multiple people guess the winning combination, they will be entered into a drawing to determine the winner.

All right, so that's going to do it for me today...and for a while. I'm having visitors next week, so I won't be blogging at all. Which means I'll miss April's IWSG.

And the start of the A to Z Challenge. For all of you who are A to Z-ing this year, I salute you.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Happy Birthday, Buffy

Before I jump into today's post, I just wanted to thank everyone for their feedback and thoughts on my IWSG post last week. Thank you for offering me much-needed perspective and guidance. The group and I are now working to resolve issues because, as it turns out, I wasn't alone in my concerns. So thank you.

All right. On with the post!

Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which has the distinction of being one of my all-time favorite shows. (Did I mention that I recently won second place in a Buffy trivia contest? Because I am embarrassingly proud of that achievement.)

The Twitter handle @whedonesque asked their followers for their favorite moment.

Which, come on. I can't pick just one. I don't know a Buffy fan who can.

So today's post will be dedicated to some of my all-time favorite moments and quotes from the series.  It will certainly not be a complete list because that would seriously go on forever, and I'm assuming you have better things to do with your life than endlessly peruse Buffy gifs. (Of course, you may be thinking that I should have better things to do with my life than endless peruse Buffy gifs...and you would be right. But I'm doing this anyway.)

Listed in whatever order I came across them on Giphy.

From Season One's Never Kill A Boy On The First Date. Not a great episode by any means, but I've always liked this line.

From Season Three's Lovers Walk. A funny moment in a pretty awesome episode.

From Season Four's The Freshmen. I spent many an hour (not a joke) trying to perfect this move. I was/continue to be unsuccessful.

From Season Seven's Showtime. Just an awesome line.

From Season Six's Tabula Rasa. This episode runs the emotional gauntlet, which I highly appreciate. This particular moment always makes me laugh.

From Season Two's Becoming, Part Two.  Like I wasn't going to pick a sword fight. But, really, this was just another highlight in an entire episode of highlights.

From Season Three's Helpless. Another awesome episode filled with awesome lines. I do appreciate good dialogue.

Season Six's Once More With Feeling. How could the musical not make this list?

Season Five's Family. I love the scene depicted above just so very much.

Season Four's Hush. Ironically, the one episode to receive an Emmy nomination for writing. What do you think, Buffy fans? One of scariest episodes ever?

Season Five's The Body. Saddest episode ever? I still cry every time I watch it.

Season Three's The Prom. I'm a sucker for this episode. I get teary-eyed when Buffy receives her award. And maybe when she dances with Angel, too. Because I believe in characters having the occasional happy long as I'm not the one writing them.

All right. That's going to do it for me.

Are you a Buffy fan? What's your favorite moment (or moments, if like me, you can't choose just one...)

Happy Monday, everyone. Hope you have a great week.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Quandary (An IWSG Post)

Hey, everyone.

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

I'm assuming you're already familiar with the IWSG, but if you're new and/or interested in more information and/or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.

This month's awesome co-hosts are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard.

This month's (optional) question asks, "Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero or the villain? Why?"

But I'm going to skip that question because I have a quandary I'd like to run past y'all instead.

This quandary is really the reason why I'm posting so late because last night, when I sat down to write my post, I was, quite frankly, too damn irritated to do anything other than sit there and silently fume.

So I have, at last, decided to present my problem to the group to receive some outside opinions/perspective. Unless I ultimately decide to write half a post, then delete it because sometimes that happens, too.

Okay, so here's the thing. I have been a member of a small critique group for a couple of years now. There were three of us to start, and we got along really well and I think we worked together really well. Like, if some aspect of my story wasn't working for someone, we would talk about it and brainstorm possible solutions. Which I found to be incredibly useful because I joined the critique group in the first place in an effort to improve my writing. I think there was a lot of trust in that original group. I trusted them with my work, to be honest about their feelings on my work, and that if someone said, "This scene didn't work for me", we would work together to come up with possible solutions that would take all of us into account. Like, the other two wouldn't just impose their will on my story. They'd raise their concerns, I'd raise my concerns, and we'd work together to find a happy compromise.

I don't know if I'm explaining that last part correctly. It may become clearer as we go on. Or I could make it worse. I guess we'll find out...

Anyway, fast forward a little bit to when one member of our trio moved away and we subsequently invited two new writers to join us—both of whom I had met in other local writers groups and who had expressed interest in being members of a regular critique group.

Except one of these two doesn't really come across to me as being interested in critique. Or discussion about a critique. On either side of a critique, too.

If a group member raises a concern they have with her story, she shuts it down immediately with statement along the lines of "No, you're wrong. That's not a problem."

To which I always want to respond, "But it may be a problem because one of your critique partners whose opinion you have deliberate sought out is telling you that it's a problem."

I know she doesn't have to make any change to her story that she does not want to make. That we're just making suggestions that she is free to use or ignore as she sees fit. I really don't care what she does with her story, but it leaves me feeling befuddled that she doesn't seem open to anything any of us say. When she's defensive, bordering on combative, it's like, why are you here if you're not interested in criticism?

Then there's the other side of the criticism coin. At our last meeting, she raised a concern she had with my story. It was a perfectly valid concern; I could see exactly what she was saying and agreed with her. And I told her so. Then I went on to say that the scene was written as such because I honestly didn't know how else to write it without losing the two really important things in that scene I really didn't want to lose.

Now, in the original group, that would be followed by a brainstorming session where we bounced ideas off one another in an effort to come up with possible solutions. This time, however, it was met with more defensive/combative behavior on her part, which was probably met by some combative behavior on my part because I was interpreting her side as saying, "I'm right, you're wrong, and there's no need to discuss this any further."

And I went home incredibly frustrated because this group that used to be so helpful and fun is instead becoming more and more work with less and less reward. I still have a problem scene and no plan in place to fix it.

But I don't know what to do about it. I don't know if there's anything I can do about it. I may be the only person who thinks there's a problem. I may be the person everyone thinks is the problem. Maybe my fellow CPs go home after a meeting and complain about that pain-in-the-ass MJ who's always so defensive and weird about everything.

If I am the only one with a problem or the actual problem, then it feels like the solution is to walk away from the group because if I'm not getting anything useful out of it, what's the point? I would be sad to leave the group because, until recently, it was useful and, you know, my group, but there's already more than enough stress in my life. Do I need to deliberately add to it?

Is it all right to approach the other two members of the group to ask for their opinions to establish if I am the problem or if it's a group-wide thing? If so, how do I do it without them pointing at me and saying, "You're only saying that because she said something bad about your story."

Which is totally NOT the case. I go to that group hoping people will say bad things about my story because I can't improve it otherwise. But if that's not coming across, then that needs to be fixed, too.

So yeah. I don't know what to do, and I don't know if I've explained things well enough that anyone out there can offer some insight. (And if that insight is 'you're insane, MJ', that's cool. And valid.) This is just how I'm viewing this situation and what I'm feeling about it, which may or may not be valid, but it is what it is, and now I need to figure out what to do about it.

Questions? Comments? Concerns?

Thanks for listening. You've been a great audience.

Monday, March 4, 2019

New Month, New Goals

Happy March, everyone!

As you've likely divined from the title of today's post, I'll be talking about goals.

February Recap

1. Complete the first draft of the terrible, horrible, no-good, bad romance novel.

As you may have seen on various forms of social media, I actually did this. It's a pretty terrible ending, if I do say so myself, which is perhaps fitting for a terrible romance novel, and there are a few scenes in desperate need of an overhaul, but those are all problems for the second draft. The first draft is done and currently sitting in a drawer in hopes that I shall have fresher eyes when I go back to work on it.

2. Read four books.

Yeah. I only managed to do this because of Sherlock graphic novels. But if Goodreads counts it, then so can I. Right?

3. Walk at least three miles every day, or a total of 84 miles for the entire month.

I was sick for a good chunk of the past month, so I fell short on the three-miles-a-day goal, but I did manage to log 97 miles overall.

March Goals

1. Complete first round of edits/revisions of the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Romance novel.

This will definitely be a stretch goal because I'm not even planning to look at this manuscript for at least another week, probably two. But regardless of when I do start, I would like it to be done this month. I'm super far behind the schedule I had set, and if possible, I'd like to make up a little time. We'll see how it goes. It is, of course, more important that these be done right than fast.

2. Do NOT work on the Terrible Romance Sequel.

You may have seen this on social media as well, but apparently, I'm now writing a sequel to the terrible, horrible, no-good, bad romance novel (Working title: Terrible Romance Sequel). I even stayed up all night one night writing a scene for it, even though I know absolutely nothing about the characters or their situation (different main characters, same universe). I had thought idly about maybe someday writing a sequel, but I hadn't planned on it being now. I have three other WIPs that require attention. The Terrible Romance Sequel will just have to wait its turn. Maybe it can be a NaNoWriMo project if I get enough other stuff done. (Because that'll happen.)

3. Read a freakin' book!

Seriously, what's wrong with me? I used to read multiple books a week, and now I'm struggling to read a single book each month. It's weird. I don't like it. That's why the goal this month is to read just one book. Any book. I'll find myself a nice children's book that's 90% pictures and read that. Or another graphic novels. Just something to break the non-reading cycle in which I'm currently stuck.

4. Walk at least three miles every day, or a total of 93 miles for the month.

This is the one goal I've consistently hit this year. Here's hoping I can keep it up.

5. Buy a couch.

Yeah. So, my couch broke last month (and totally not because some so-called adult was jumping on it during a football game...) and I have yet to replace it because the other half of the couch is...okay (translation: incredibly uncomfortable, but technically not broken), and I am incredibly lazy. But we're expecting company at the end of the month and that company may want to sit somewhere other than the floor or in a beach chair.  So my mission is to buy a new unbroken couch before they arrive.

Live footage of me couch shopping?

That's gonna do it for me today. What's on your agenda this month?