April 25

Preparations for School

Life is growing increasingly hectic as I prepare for my second semester of school.  Outside of  normal responsibilities, I have things I need to read, critique and watch.  I’m also trying to decide what to pack.

When I made this trip last year, I had the luxury of driving down. I say luxury, not because the cross-country trip was easy, though I’ve made the trip so often it’s probably far easier on me than on someone who has never managed it before. I say luxury because cars have the advantage in some areas when it comes to travel. By taking a car, I don’t have to limit my luggage.  As long as it fits in my car it can go, whether it’s edible, leaky, necessary or dangerous. With airlines you either pay a small fortune or are severely limited to what you can take on the plane, and how heavy/large your bag can be. So it’s a tossup on which is better the plane or the airline.  Both are uncomfortable, but you’ll, usually arrive faster on a plane than by car.

So, I’m making and re-making packing lists, trying to prioritize what needs to go and what can stay.  The school stuff has top priority. I need to take the screenplays, books and the schedule with me, along with a handful of other things. Clothes are an obvious necessity, but how much do I take with me? With me staying at my mothers I can do laundry at her house without it costing me anything.  However, I don’t want to be doing laundry every night. Do I take my manuscript, even though my focus is screenplays? Make up, which I rarely wear, but wore every day at residency? Then I need to consider my sister, who will be coming with me on the trip.  She’s seven. This will be her first time on a plane. What do I need to make sure she has in her carry-on? Then I’m trying to get other things done.  Newsletter for the Coeur du Bois Romance Writer’s Group, paying bills, working…looking up ideas on what Young Adult screenplays I should read for the semester…

As stressful as preparing for Residency is, I’ll be glad when I finally get there.  Last year I learned a ton.  The information I received from lectures, workshops and critiques transformed my writing, making me stronger in some areas. My story has made a dramatic change because of what I learned last year.  This year, I expect, will be no different, especially when I look at lectures they’ve announced will be at residency. For me, the semester was fun, a retreat, a vacation of sorts despite the long hours and sometimes stressful, last minute assignments. Plus, things will be less stressful for me once I get into the swing of things and add homework to my regular schedule again.

Until then…well, I’m wondering if the queen of hearts is trying to chop off my head.  I hope not.  The way I’m going right now, I’d never find my head again.

March 23

Good Things Can Make Your Writing Stronger Too

As a writer, I know the importance of receiving a good critique from an honest eye. I appreciate the comments I get, the suggestions on how to make my work better, perhaps too much.  When I’m receiving critiques, I often find myself skipping over the complimentary stuff, almost ignoring it completely and focus on the “may improve” suggestions.  That isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate the occasional “Good Job” written on the manuscript, but it’s a secondary desire to improving my writing.

This, unfortunately, has caused problems for me, mainly when I try to critique someone else’s writing. I try to give those I critique what I want most–ideas on improvements. I will, on occasion, put a “Great Job” on the page, but those are extremely rare, mainly because I understand that the best way to improve is to get critiques and work on improving the area of confusion. This has left some people disheartened, even some who I believe to be talented writers.   As an MFA student, I am required to give critiques to classmates–a mixture of good and how to improves.  Although I’m good at identifying what needs improved, I really have problems thinking up the positives in the work to mention.  I’m not sure why, other than I’ve never really focused my attention on the positives I received during my reviews.

I can absolutely love a story but when I write something up, I’ll start listing the negatives, what bothered me about it and what I thought needed changed–even if what I’m reviewing has already been published.  This works out for me as well, since that lets me know what kind of things I need to avoid if I’m going to write a book in a similar genre.  Then, when I’m done, the  few positives I listed  beside the (possible) super-long list of negatives appear miniscule, pitying and/or may be invisible.

Recently I’ve read a book where the author pointed out that identifying the positives and negatives in a work can be beneficial to ones writing. The negatives I’ve already mentioned, will let me know what to avoid, what I don’t like, etc.  The positives, however, will let me know what I need to do more often.   For example, I nailed a description on page 32.  By knowing that, I can try using the same method used to get that description to create other great ones.  In that way, I’m improving skills that I’m already decent at, not just improving things that I’m poor at.

With that realization, I’m hoping that I can write up a more balanced review/critique every time I write one.  I don’t imagine this will be easy.  I’m almost blind to the positives in someone’s work, especially if the piece isn’t something that makes me go  “BEST BOOK EVER!!!”  But I think that learning to balance the positives and the negatives in a review or critique will serve both the writer and I better.  I may need help reaching this goal. And if my dear readers have time, I would appreciate a nudge whenever I focus too much on the negative. Remind me that I want to try thinking up more positives.  Lately, I feel like the latest books I’ve reviewed have come across as negative, when in fact I may have enjoyed the book.  And if you have any questions as to whether I liked a book or not, let me know.  I’d be more than happy to clear that up.

So, don’t do what I’ve done for years, ignore the positive and learn from the negative.  The positives in your writing could make you a stronger writer too.

What about you?  Do you focus on the negative?  The positive?  What about when the comments are from someone else and directed at your own work?

November 20

And I’m back!!!

I’ve been gone for a while. Time just managed to escape me but I’ve had a lot going on recently, some of it too personal to say on a public blog, but others are writing-related.  I also suspected my blogging would die down once I was out of school and will probably pick back up when I’m back in school. I haven’t gotten a handle on writing a blog semi-regularly yet.

Anyways, to update you on what I’ve been doing:

I have a freshly edited draft of Shadowed.  Now I can start working on the changes I realized I’d need to make while I was working through this latest draft of Shadowed. Afterwards, I’ll go through the draft looking for other things that need changed or written better.

The story has changed so much during this draft that I no longer believe Shadowed is the best title for it, not that it was perfect for the story before the massive changes to the book..  I’ve continued looking for a new title for the book though and I keep returning to a phrase I used in my book: Land of Blood and Sunlight. Now whether I call it Land of Blood and Sunlight  or  simply Blood and Sunlight, if I use it, I don’t know. Any opinions?

One of my friends, Cyna of Your Killing Me, has been working on making a book cover for my story.  Some of you may have already seen the one my mother made. The picture is a scene from Shadowed, which remains relatively unchanged even with the major changes I recently made to it. This one was made primarily of oils.  And came to life after I gave my mother multiple descriptions and searched the internet for hours for pictures that looked similar to the characters I imagined. A lot of emails and back and forth commentary later, we got the result to the right. She left the title off so that should I change the name of the book, as I’m leaning towards doing, I can simply change the title on the computer.  The title and byline  is  my own work.

Cyna is using the computer to make the cover.  The first cover she came up with was nice, very clean, and much more traditional, less artsy, but it didn’t feel right to me. I told her what I would like to see changed, sorted through several images with her and saw the rough draft of the new cover today. I like this version much better.  Their were a few things I asked to have changed and we sorted through images again.   I’m looking forward to seeing the final product.  Once the cover is complete, I’ll probably post it here for viewing.

For those who are curious both my mother and Cyna are always willing to discuss the possibility of working on other projects. Both of them have an eye for imagery that I envy and have patience. I may be prejudiced, but I’d recommend either of them for projects.

In January 2013, I become Vice President of Communications for the Coeur du Bois chapter of Romance Writer’s of America. This will be an interesting new challenge for me as I’ve only had training in communications. I’ll also be starting another semester in school in May, which will end in October, and working as many hours as I can at my job, while working toward my writing goals. Phew.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But I’m looking forward to it.

Lately, I’ve been consuming books like chocolate and got together with a few friends to discuss one of them.  You’ll see the results of that discussion on tomorrows post.  I hope you enjoy the change in presentation.