Welcome to 2017

It’s a new year!

I have not, as planned, finished the first draft of my WIP in 2016. In fact, I’m not even close. Dang.

Still, I won’t write off 2016 as a total failure, because I have learned a lot during the past 12 month – especially in the “get to know your craft” department. I know there are thousands upon thousands of books on the craft from “On Writing” by King to “Bird by Bird” by Lamott – from “Stein on Writing” by Stein to “The Art of War for Writers” by Bell … I could go on and on and chances are high a copy found its way onto my bookshelf.

So in retrospect, 2016 has been great for learning. I’m positive that’s important, too.

In the meantime the ideas for my WIP have been growing and evolving along with my steadily raising grasp of the craft. With the next SCBWI meet-up ahead I’ll go ahead and get something ready to send out.

 

Another SCBWI Meetup in Stuttgart

The summer holidays are over and it’s time to do the thing again.

In absolute honesty, I did not make much progress on my WIP during the last eight weeks. It turns out family vacation in the alps and writing just don’t quite fit together. But since school has started again and I’m slowly and to a part grudgingly resuming my early bird schedule, I’ve been able to get some work done.

What’s always helping – and I mean it when I say ALWAYS – is a meet-up with the ladies from SCBWI in Stuttgart library. Whenever I get to spent a day there with fellow writers, I can’t but come away freshly motivated and with new ideas.

So here’s a big “Thank you” to the SCBWI in general for providing such an enabling community to be part of – and to Catherine and Linda in particular, for spending time with me.

January 2016, in hindsight

I wont deny it. I think 2016 is starting out great.

I ticked a couple of tasks right off my 2016 bullet list early in January. If of interest you might go and read the posts from earlier the year.

Two more things happened in January that make me really happy. First. One of my characters manages to surprise me big time. And second, even more important, I made progress with my writing habits. Hugely so.

It turns out 4:30 am is just the right time to get up an write. Well ok – its 4:51 by now but one needs to get the eyes open and some coffee into the belly, no?) However. I am sitting. very early in the morning and I write. Without kids interrupting, without husband searching some misplaced item and calling for help. If someone had told 2 month ago I would get up this early I would have laughed. Very loudly. Seriously – late riser and all what I used to be…

But, I had to do something about a meagre output I had at the end of 2015. I had to find some hour I could reserve for nothing but writing and plotting and honing my characters. Turns out, the only time I can possible manage writing in a reasonable reoccurring and stable way are the early hours of the day. Family is still asleep so I can spent time with my “imaginary friends” as my husband has started to call this whole endeavour. (haha, he is not wrong I guess)

I have started the experiment “become an early riser” in the 2nd week of January. And I am not just a little proud to report: it worked. It still works! Other than going to bed at 22pm instead of midnight it was the easiest thing. I cut myself some slack at the weekends – 5am is still good enough on these days. I kept it up for the rest of the month. By now it is not even an ordeal anymore. Guess there is a grain of truth in all this “form a habit in 21 days”- programs.

So.. yay me! I will go ahead and tick off another point on this bullet list.

And yes .. there was this wonderful moment a few days ago I wanted to share. The moment one of my characters kind of … surprised me. I was writing along happily at a scene where she had to draw a lot from a case. A very importand draw. We are talking life changing draw. And what does she do? She takes two. That little b*tch took two lots instead of just one. Cheater! Ha! I loved it. Still do. Worked it into the plot smoothly. I am still smiling when I think about it.

I attribute this headway, one might even call it a success, to one of the advise books I have been reading lately. J.S. Bell introduced me to the method of Voice Journaling to flesh out important characters. Works like a charm.

So … in hindsight. January 2016 has been a blast. If the year goes on like this it will bound to bring more surprises. Let’s see where February takes me. Spoiling us with with 29 days this year! Now more coffee… and back to the blank page.

New submission to CC

There is no part of a story that is as fascinating as the hook. At least for me it is.

The first piece I submitted to the Critique Circle (CC) was the attempt on a prologue. I was already reasonably sure that it would not make it in the final draft – it was however the most revised and self edited piece I had at the time. And the purpose of the first submission was to test the language skills.

So I decided yesterday evening to submit one (of the 2 possible) new beginnings for my WIP the the CC crowd. See, there is a special queue with CC called The Hook. The task for the reader (and critique at the same time) is to read along as far as it is interesting. You don’t have to write lengthy explanations or point out spelling errors – you simply give feedback for the hook. If my hook works, most will read to the end. If I screwed up and the writing is bad/boring/confusing/whatever for the reader I will know where they dropped out and stopped reading. And maybe why. Should be awesome feedback.

I will have to wait for some time for the results. This particularly queue comes up only once a month – next is up the first week of Feb.

Book.review

This is a review for S. Evans book Novel Writing Mastery: Proven And Simple Techniques To Outline, Structure And Write A Successful Novel – I finished it 3 days ago and want to share what I learned. Honestly, there was not much new information, most of the ideas I had read somewhere else before. For me that’s a hint that I have done quite a lot of research on the topics of novel building, structure and such.

I like the first few pages where Evans busts some myths about the writing process. Most of it was not news but it is written entertainingly and – even more important – from an unemotionally point of view.

The next topic – on how to create realistic and compelling characters – held only few new ideas, but to recap the already known points is not a bad idea either. Useful for my WIP was the reminder, that each character has some dark side within her personality. I tend to forget that. Same goes for the behaviour within groups – there will always be a hierarchy.

I was a little disappointed about the third and fourth chapter. I was hoping to glimpse some new insights, some new approach to structure development but Evans (just) describes the already known snowflake method and some key components like forewarnings, consequences or goals that one needs to keep in mind when writing character arcs. But there is not much detail to these points and I miss a wider range of examples

Nicely done are the next parts that deal in detail with the beginning (Hook) and the ending (satisfaction). Can’t read enough about those – I think these are key.

What really helped and offered a lot of new information were the pats about publishing and the classification of a book. Especially the part about expected word counts for several different categories.

Best part was the bonus about poetry that comes as an add-on with the book. I enjoyed that very much. Especially since I was thinking about looking into that topic for a while. Evans describes the basics in an understandable manner – I might give it a try soon.

 

First test with Critique Circle

Few days ago I wrote about me picking and joining an online critique group – among the many available I chose Critique Circle.

Right after joining up and getting through the confirmation email process I started their “Welcome to CC” routine which left me with enough credits to submit my first piece of writing. It was up for its one week critique timeframe starting 6th of January. After submitting it all I had to do was wait and browse the forum. And of course – critique other writer’s work.

What can I say? This is fun and help at the same time. I like reading those bits and pieces of other writers. We are all just trying to hone our skills, advance our word-smithing and learn to put onto paper what we think someone else might enjoy reading. After a few days of critiquing several stories in different categories I have noticed that I do learn a lot – from the mistakes of others. Usually, when you buy a book there has been done some polishing going on with the original manuscript. Whatever writer, agent, editor, and publisher possible could do they did to make it as good as it gets. You don’t really get to see writings fresh from the author, let alone examples of the first rough draft.

So sometimes it is (at least for me) a little intimidating because as reader I don’t get to see all the work that went into the manuscript to make it smooth like it is when finally printed. But now I could (can!) see exactly that. And be part of it.

Whenever I notice something off in my fellow writer buddies texts, I learn. May it be a switch in POV, seemingly endless overuse of adverbs, weird dialogue tags, warped sentence structure … If I can spot it in their work, I might stand a chance to spot it in my own one day. I have since realised that spotting these things in the writings of others is a lot easier than spotting it in my own. But I figure writing is a craft like any other. The more you learn, the better you get.

During the week following Jan 6th I got seven critiques for my first submission. These helped me to come to a decision regarding my WIP. Apparently my English skills are good enough to justify me proceeding in English language. This was one of my major concerns.

Happy.

 

Critique Group Search

With yesterdays achievement a rather easy task I figured I might as well tackle the next item on my list. This time it was 1) not so easy to solve and b) involved some internet (re)search. Latter quickly blew my mind and the number of open tabs in my browser as well. This is what happened:

I had been searching for a critique buddy in 2015 – without success. Turns out I just searched the wring thing. Originally I was hoping to find a native English speaker here in town who would sit and talk with me, drink coffee, point out critique worthy things in my WIP and I would return the favour. Like a real-life-writer-friend. BUT, living in Germany lowers the number of native English speakers. How to find someone among those few who lives near enough for personal meet-ups and who is interested in investing the amount of time necessary? Not an easy task, if not downright impossible.

Dismissing this plan of action I pondered the possibility of an online critique group (CG). Imagine my surprise … there are thousands! Good start.

Now, how to choose one? I found a blogpost, more like 10 blogs, dedicating a post to CGs. I clicked all the links. Open in new tab, open in new tab, open in new …… Browser got slowly lagging and I quickly lost overview of all the tabs. I scanned through the different websites, bookmarked a few and dismissed others.

In the end I signed up with Critique Circle. Their website looked friendly enough. The system of credits they use seems ok. So I just went ahead. It won’t cost me money but time to help others by critiquing their stories. In turn I will get feedback from different natives on my language skills. And on my writing as well.

This is a big step forward and makes me happy.

Second item on bucket list done. Yay!