When you realize that copying another writer is actually smart

I haven’t written here for a while, sorry about that.  I haven’t done much with my novel other than think about it and read the first chapter trying to figure out how to make some changes which were suggested to me at the last meeting.  Yesterday I did come to a realization and decision about something which may seem like I am directly copying another writer but actually for my story, it just makes sense.  I have decided to use sigils in my story.

Now for those who have read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire you know that he uses them.  I didn’t want to do that even though it was an intriguing idea, especially for someone who is a herald in the SCA and works on devices (which is the same thing as a sigil).  However it was pointed out to me that it would make more sense for one of my characters to realize that the person she has run into is definitely on the other side with some symbol to state it without words needed.

Of course now comes the really hard part, creating those sigils and deciding who will have them.  I’m not sure I want to make it each family like Martin does, although from a historic standpoint that does make sense.  I might even just do it for the groups in war but again I’m not sure how that would work.  So the easy part is over and it’s time to work on the difficult one.

Got questions, Open your mouth

Well after many, many meetings where I took the first three pages of my novel and heard the same things repeatedly, I finally decided to open my mouth and ask a question.  You might be wondering why it took me this long to do it and the reason might be silly.  I thought that the changes I was making to the chapter would solve the problem

While some of it is better from the comments and my editing, obviously not all of it was.  The biggest comments were that the chapter needs to be from one perspective (working on that but apparently need to make it more obvious) and the other has to do with the background I give of the two characters introduced.  I kept being told to add that info later because, while it obviously is important, it’s too much in the beginning.

So my question was how I accomplish this because I actually can’t.  The two characters don’t interact until toward the end of the novel and at that point there is no time to go into this info.  The answer I received pretty much had to do with one of the characters thinking about some of that back-story later in the book but the other not knowing.

This will change the whole story since one character is telling the other much of this to get a shock reaction but somehow I will make it still work.  I’m glad I finally asked though.  It gave me lots to think about though.

Taking Criticism in Stride

Recently my monthly writers’ group met.  I once again brought the first three pages of my novel (only three pages are allowed) and put my heart and soul on display.  Some of the people in my group this month had read the copy I had last month, others hadn’t.  Both can be a blessing and a curse because those who have seen it might see what was changed, and those who haven’t do not know the lengths you have gone to make the work better.

In our group if you bring something to be critiqued, you are supposed to sit and take the criticism without defending your work.  This can be difficult at times but these people are trying to help you make it better and as an outside viewer can see the problems, you don’t.  I try to follow this rule and don’t say anything unless asked specific questions.

That being said last night was somewhat difficult.  I received great advice but many jokes were made at my expense, or actually at my story’s expense.  I have to admit I laughed about much of it because it was good-natured.  However, I also learned a lot from that session.  I was also asked to bring the revised copy back next month so people can see what I changed.

So do you take criticism well?  Or do you get defensive?

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Writers Group

A little over a year ago, thanks to a friend, I joined a local writers group.  I had always wanted to join one but didn’t know any around.  That’s not entirely true, one of the bookstores had one but from what I had seen of it, I wasn’t impressed.  Plus they met at an inconvenient time.  So my friend gets me involved with this group she’s a member of, I go to the first meeting, and I am glad I took the plunge.

Now I have been, and am, a member of several writing places online.  Some I have used in the past and some I never got around to exploring the website very much.  Honestly some sites are more difficult than others to peruse and figure out how to use them to help you as a writer.

This group is great because we meet every month and it is the same people over and over.  Or at least many of the same people since life can get in the way of people returning or coming to meetings some months, plus right now we are seeing a HUGE growth.  Consistency is what I like here.

I don’t always take my work for critique but I have many times.  The first piece was a short story which became my first novel.  I don’t think without going to this group and brining that piece I would be where I am today as a writer.  The biggest comment I received was that there was a story there; it couldn’t end where it did for the short story.  That was September and come NaNoWriMo of said year, I decided to find out what that story was and haven’t looked back.

I have received some good and bad feedback from people when I’ve gone.  One such incident was a novel I have since decided to not finish, where I was told there was too much exposition and not enough action.  So I cut it down and returned the following month, to be told there wasn’t enough exposition (no this is not the reason I decided to stop writing this novel) much to my aggravation.  However other times I get things which do improve the writing or at least make me think how to do something differently, especially when it’s not something I saw on my own.

The biggest disadvantage though, is we have a three page limit.  So that several people can bring their work in for critique it makes sense and I understand it, but the need to have the entire thing read is crucial for someone to critique the piece effectively.  However with the new blood in our group came an idea for those with novels to have a different group, within the current one, so that one person CAN read your manuscript all the way through.  Yeah what a novel idea, no pun intended, but something that wasn’t really addressed or offered this way previously.

I do think writers groups are highly valuable and worth to join, provided you can get honest criticism and not take it personally (we have had one person who did and never returned).  It’s just a matter of finding one which works for you and dealing with whatever constraints there are.