It’s time for my November check-in with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the lovely mutual aid society that connects those of us struggling with our words. This month’s awesome co-hosts are Stephen Tremp, Karen Walker, Denise Covey, and Tyrean Martinson. Thanks to the whole support group!
I’m a lot less insecure right now than I was 24 hours ago, because I did it – I read from my work to others for the very first time at the monthly meeting of R-SPEC. I promised last month that I would, and I did! From this experience I learned three important things. Continue reading
It’s been a long time since I’ve been scared on Halloween, the American holiday that repackages fright and death into fun and games. But today, I got my heart pounding. Today was the day I hauled out the NaNoWriMo draft of my novel and looked at it for the first time since August.
It’s been almost a month since I promised to do this, and only three days before the day I’m committed to reading my opening to the good people at R-SPEC (Rochester Speculative Literature Association). I have been actively avoiding reading what I wrote, or even thinking about it very much. At first it was because, really, you should let your draft sit for a bit before you start editing. Everyone knows that, right? And then the school year started and I had a ton to do to get my classes off and running. And I keep finding other things to work on (this blog, for example). But I made a promise, and today I finally took that deep breath, squared my shoulders, and opened that scary folder, the one labeled Draft 1. And what did I see?
Two birds with one post: a response to this week’s Daily Post photo challenge: Boundaries, and to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (hosted this time byTB Markinson, Tamara Narayan,Shannon Lawrence, Stephanie Faris, and Eva E. Solar). I’m an insecure writer trying to understand the boundaries, outside and inside, between me and my writing goals.
The Walk and Talk
I just experienced an interesting example of synchronicity: when things suddenly happen together so that they seem linked, but it’s really just coincidence. It feels kind of eerie when that happens, but no matter what they always say, coincidences do happen! My example started when I went to the recent meeting of R-SPEC, where the topic was Revealing Backstory without the Dreaded “Info Dump.” An info-dump is when an author brings the story to a limping halt to spend a chunk of words telling the reader things the author thinks the reader needs to know but that aren’t actually happening right now, in story time. We talked about various ways to avoid this, including things like creating a flashback that is its own fully-rendered immediate story or giving it to a character in a drunken diatribe. Another technique we mentioned was the Walk and Talk, made famous by the TV show The West Wing. Much of the show centered around witty, intelligent dialogue between the various characters working in the administration of President Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen). To avoid having lots of scenes with people just standing and talking, much of this dialogue was filmed as people walked through the halls of the White House. The message here is to have some kind of action going on, even if it’s just people walking, while delivering the exposition. I immediately thought of an early scene in my story where the main character (and the reader) absolutely has to get the beginnings of an explanation about what the hell just happened? One character tells the other, and this is the first plot point that launches the actual story. I started to think about what these characters can be doing besides just talking, and it has to be something that advances the plot in its own right.
Now we get to the synchronicity: Just a couple of days later, as I was thinking through this issue, I watched this week’s episode of CSI: Cyber (hey, I have to give something so techy a try, right?). What jumped out to me was a scene in which the FBI Deputy Director Sifter (Peter MacNicol) and Agent Ryan (Patricia Arquette) are telling each other things they obviously must already know but that have to be explained to the viewer, and they did so while walking from place to place. Now that I’m thinking about this idea, I will no doubt be seeing it everywhere!
So I will take it as a Sign from the Heavens: give those people something to do besides talking! And I’m already seeing it in my head. Another idea that will make things better.
I’ve opened the door.
I’m a shell-person – an introvert who is anxious about going out and interacting with people I don’t know. Ironic, since I also teach college and interact with hundreds of new people every semester. However, that’s in a context I’m very comfortable with, one where I’ve got 27+ years of experience. Going into a social context that I’m not so familiar with is kind of scary.
There’s a local group of people who are interested in reading and writing science fiction and fantasy: the Rochester Speculative Literature Association (R-SPEC for short). I’ve known about them for months, and even know one of its members pretty well. I’ve been following them on Facebook and meaning to go to one of their meetings, but I kept chickening out. Guess what – last night I went! And it was good. There were about a dozen people, and they were all very welcoming and friendly. They went out of their way to make sure I knew what was happening and how everything worked. And when four members read from their current projects, the comments from the group were supportive and encouraging while still offering good, concrete suggestions for improvement. In addition to sharing works through readings, they have programs with information writers need (how to build a realistic planet, how to handle dialogue, and so on). I think I’m going to join and going to attend again.
Look at me – stepping out there and forming connections. Yay!