Writing Blogs

Critique Groups

I have belonged to a writing group for over twenty years. We debated back and forth for a long time about the need for rules. I took our real rules and twisted them a bit.

GENERAL RULES
We welcome all genres, but the following: pornography, erotica,  non-fiction of any kind, and anything we don’t like.

Don’t discuss personal matters during the meeting, it’s not fair to rub your fantastic life in our faces. We’re here for one reason and one reason only, to ruin your life as you know it. When you leave the room crying we have met our goal.

If you become a “regular,” you’ll get a members’ list with everyone’s telephone number, address, and electronic address for stalking purposes only. You can use these to keep your gossip greased or whine about these rules.

READINGS
Sessions on the first Wednesday of the month are reserved for readings only–no lessons. During the rest of the month, if there is time at the end of the meeting, members read portions of their works-in-progress. Tripping other members, so that you might take their spot is strictly forbidden, unless of course, I’m the one who doesn’t get to read.

The facilitator will determine the amount you may read. She/he also has the right to stop you if the work is offensive, inappropriate, or if you put us to sleep. If your work is putting everyone into a coma, congratulations, you’ll probably be published in two months.

Don’t ask to read more than the allotted number of pages. (SELFISH) We don’t care if the Pulitzer deadline is just around the corner. You should plan ahead. Besides, we’re too wrapped up in wondering why we weren’t nominated to even listen. Please don’t take offense if members take out little dolls that look like you and stick pins in them. That pain in your neck is purely a coincidence. But not to worry, we have chiropractor on retainer!

Do not explain your work. (Frankly, we don’t give a damn) If it requires explanation, then it isn’t ready for presentation. The setup should be included in the story. However, other members may ask that you bring them up to date. Do this as briefly as possible. (YAWN) We don’t need a psychological profile for each character, or for you, we don’t care that your mama spanked you.

Articulate and speak loudly. We can’t critique what we can’t hear. If you fail to comply, the rest of the evening will require you to stand at the podium on one foot while we eat your French fries.

Do not interrupt those reading. This includes acknowledging the arrival of another member or whispering to the person next to you. Miming is permissible. A giant wave of the hand and/or blowing a kiss is acceptable. The only time this rule may be ignored is when the individual entering the room is armed and appears to be hostile. (It only happened once, we swear.)

Don’t read something you’ve already read unless it has changed drastically and at least a year has gone by. (YAWN) Also, please do not explain past critiques, we are critiquing what you just read, not what was written three years ago. If this is rewrite number forty-two, make it forty-three!

If your piece has already been published, leave it at home. It’s too late for us to be of any benefit and you’re wasting the time of those who want to get where you are. Don’t rub it in their faces. It’s not nice. (SOB, as in crying, not son of -B*****)

CRITIQUING
Critiquing begins with the person to the left of the reader and goes clockwise around the room. Critiques are usually written in brief form on tiny scraps of paper that end up all over your house. The writer may mull or cry over them later. On the first and third Wednesdays of the month, that fall into a month with an “R”, we go to the person on the right, spin and then we all shout. “THAT’S WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT!”

Be truthful. (Or lie, like the rest of us.) Saying its National Book Award material when it wouldn’t even make it as casual bathroom reading won’t help the writer. Always include something positive. There’s always a plus in everyone’s effort. No, saying you’re glad they have finally finished reading doesn’t count.

If you are really at a loss for something nice to say, hide out in the bathroom with the rest of us.

Do not interrupt the individual critiquing. Wait your turn. You should have learned this in kindergarten. Once you become a member, your kindergarten teacher’s name must be forwarded to the facilitator, if you fail to comply, we will contact him/her.

Do not repeat a criticism already presented. Most members get it the first time. If they don’t get it, stand on your chair, shout and wring your hands.

If another member opposes your critique, don’t argue the point. The writer will decide what’s best, or probably ignore you anyway.

As the reader/author, do not debate the criticism. You can take it or leave it. Some of it is only opinion anyway. We prefer you take it and run with it. We like it when no talents take our ideas and steal them.

If you don’t understand, do not ask for a lesson until after the session. (Brown Noser) The facilitator or one of the other learned members can help you after the meeting.

The facilitator may schedule instruction in the problem area at a later date. Your kindergarten teacher will also be available. Many counseling sessions have taken place in Skyline Rest home. (They love us there.) In the meantime, research it yourself. It will be good for you.

Do not talk amongst yourselves while the critiquing is going on. Any note passing will result in the facilitator reading your note aloud to the entire class. You could learn something. Hard to believe, we know, but you really could. Also, if there is any gum chewing, please be sure you brought enough for everybody.

LOGISTICS

When a reader/author points to their head and says, “Internal,” they are indicating characters internal thoughts, not what they really think of you.” IE… “Internal, Point to the head, I hate it when John shows up for class.”

When a reader/author says, “Drop down, everyone will drop to the floor and put their hands behind their heads. (It stems from that one-armed incident.) P.S. We love pulling this on the new-be’/ wannabe’s.

If you refuse to follow any of the suggestions (improve), then stop coming. If you’re already perfect, you don’t need us and we don’t want to listen to you. Happy Writing!

END OF DOCUMENT

 

Insecure Writer’s Group

by rhondamhall

Insecure? That’s me! I’m taking part in an Insecure Writer’s group blog hop. Lately, I haven’t written much of anything. I know, I know. I should just keep submitting, but at times I am stifled by anxiety. Did I use the right word or comma? I shouldn’t let that stuff get to me, but I do.
I know, as all writers, artists, journalists, musicians and even jugglers know, that it takes courage to put yourself out there. You can and will get your hand slapped. There are people out there who want to take you down and make you hurt as much as they hurt.
You dropped a ball, you hit a wrong note, or you misspelled a word and put a comma where clearly it doesn’t belong! After my latest and greatest fiasco, I haven’t written much of anything in the past few weeks. I haven’t posted in my blog in months!
However, I just started working on something yesterday, so all is not lost. I think I wrote two paragraphs, but it was two paragraphs more than I had the day before. I know, lots of authors get tons of rejections and you have to push through until you get that yes. I’ve had agents chase me down, but then things happened and it didn’t work out. It was a huge boost to my confidence. I also feel and have felt in so many different times and different ways that God, yes God, truly wants this for me as well. So, who am I to argue with God?
I have some down time, in other words, vacation, (Yippee!) and hopefully I can recharge my creative juices and get back to writing and submitting.

 

So, you want an Publishing Contract?

Posted on April 10, 2014

by rhondamhall

So, you want a book contract? Well, get in line. The days of the ruminating writer who hides out in his parent’s attic are over. You’ve got to get out there and work it, boy. You’ve got to have plenty of “likes” on your Facebook page. You’ve got to have a website. Self-published? Well, show us your stats. The J.D Salinger’s of the publishing world are gone. The kid who sits alone at his Pica typewriter while his long-suffering mother brings him tomato soup are done. You’ve got to socialize. You have to make contacts. Are you shy, do you lack confidence? Well, to darn bad.
Did you see Sean Connery in Finding Forrester? If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a famous prolific writer who sort of checks out of life until a young kid, who happens to be a writer, breaks into his apartment on a dare. Can you imagine William Forrester concentrating on his website? Telling Jamal Wallace, the kid, that he’ll help him with his writing if he likes his author page? I think I read somewhere, that the character of William Forrester was based on J.D. Salinger.
It’s a different game from the days of Salinger and Emily Dickinson. I took my nephew to school today. On the way back, I saw a guy in a little front loader moving large blocks of concrete. I thought to myself, I wonder if this guy blogs? Then, I saw some guys working in trees. I could hear the grinding of tree limbs as they were crushed into pulp. I wondered if these guys rush home to write about their experience cutting down a forty-foot spruce.
Did you have a bad day? Did your mama spank you? Well, write about it you fool! That’s publishing gold. You might gain a new follower on Twitter. Maybe you will touch that sensitive side of someone who went through the same thing. Quite possibly, someone will comment with “this” or “that” or “Word up” and since we have to abbreviate everything, they may just comment “Word!” Hopefully, there will be a moment of truth that will resonate with people. Maybe, your inspirations will touch someone to the core and they will follow your blog. Oh, I hope so!
I saw a photo that was supposedly taken when a family went into the river during a flood. The family clung to life on the underside of the bridge. So, apparently, they had time for a spontaneous photo? Instead of hanging on for dear life, they are snapping an “in the moment” picture. Did you see this kid who took a selfie of himself and a cop dressed in riot gear? I can only hope that kid has a blog. If not, I’m sure that photo has gone viral and he now has many new friends.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to throw on my helmet and ride my bike to work. Oh, I do hope something interesting happens to me on the way, so I can blog about it later. Or better yet, I will vlog about it. I can show a video log of my reaction to that interesting something. Oh, and by the way, please like my post and follow me on Twitter!

 

Writer’s Block?  Pooshaw! Have you met our awesome God! 

 

I’ve heard many a writer proclaim there is no such thing as writer’s block. As a writer, I have suffered from something every now and then, but I never named it that. I usually coin it, life block.
I never really thought much about it. I just knew every now and then, something would prevent me from moving forward. Sometimes, it is because I am profoundly depressed as a writer. The task seems too great. I have often said, I have a ten foot story, but I’m only a six-foot writer. It may sound weird, but sometimes I don’t feel up to the task of conveying my own story as best it needs to be described.

Sometimes, I just can’t write. I can rewrite, but I can’t add new pages.
Oh, sure, it’s probably because I’m a pantser. For you non-writers, that’s a person who writes by the seat of their pants. There’s also plotters. They write by outline. I have an outline in my head, but I don’t usually peg it down. Sometimes, the story and the characters lead me where I need to go. And sometimes, they don’t.
I haven’t written an original word in over six months. Like I said, I can pull up an old story and rewrite the dickens out of the thing, but the new story is stagnating.
One of the novels I am writing is tentatively titled, Air Conditioning is Ruining America. In the story, a family has suffered severe financial difficulty and then their four-year-child is accidentally run over and has to have her leg amputated. The fourteen-year-old brother, who was driving the car, runs to the top of a radio tower in an attempt to jump off. His older sister and father chase after him. When they catch up, he is several hundred feet in the air. He sits calm, cool and collected as if spending a day at the beach. He confesses he intended to jump but changed his mind when God told him to become a doctor.
The family loses everything, their home, and their business. Now, the family must move heaven and earth to make this a reality. They are dirt poor, but they have a son who is supposed to be a doctor. And God himself has said to make it so.
For the past six months, I have had this family sitting in a campground. I could not get them out of that darn campground!
And then, in stepped God. That’s right you heard/read me. In more ways that I can count, I have had God urging me on and telling me to keep writing. This is not only what I like to do, I believe it is what God desperately calls me to do. There’s a truth in this story. A truth, a reach, a laugh and a smile that needs to come out.
This Sunday, we heard a sermon on Healing. Our pastor, at West Hills Presbyterian Church in Omaha, NE, Derek Richman, preached from the Bible verse: Mark Chapter 5 24-34. I will quote the last few lines.
34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
The sermon wasn’t just on healing, but believing you were healed. It may not happen overnight but over time.
Pastor Derek advised we could stand where we were and he would hold his hands up and pray for us. Our church doesn’t normally do alter calls, (for you non-religious types, an alter call is when people come forward if they want to make a commitment to Jesus) and we were short on time. After the service, if we wanted, we could come forward and be anointed with oil.
My sister stood. So, I stood too. And you know what, lots of people stood. I wanted help and healing for another matter.
Afterwards, I turned to my sister and I said, “You know, I totally feel my writing problems are over. I feel my dry spell has been healed.” I wasn’t even thinking about writing. I would never ask for prayers for my  that. It seems so silly. Presumptuous. Pretentious. People are struggling in this life. Why would I ask or need help with something like that?
I wasn’t going to get anointed with oil, but my mom and sister went. I didn’t really need it, but somehow I stood in line. Afterwards, I could smell the oil throughout the day. That sweet smell lingered with me. The sermon had a profound impact on me.
Later, I grabbed my flash drives and sat down to write, but I didn’t have them. I searched the couch and the floor where I was sitting. I scanned the kitchen counter where the flash drives had been, but they were not there. I looked on my bed. I actually crawled all over it, feeling for them. I scoured under the bed. I was almost late to work looking for them.
Let me explain what my flash drives mean to me. They have in their hot little memory banks both of the current novels I am working on. They have countless blog posts, short stories and novels I started but haven’t finished. Screenplays, critiques of writing partners, passwords, paychecks, plays, pictures, classes I’ve taken, homework and recipes. When I go anywhere, I bring my flash drives with me, but in my pocket. Should I be robbed, they can take my purse, my wallet, my car keys, but I will keep my flash drives. They are the one thing, I am prepared to fight for. And buddy, I do mean fight.
I was a bit panicked. Oh, sure, I felt healed, but here was the very tool I needed to advance the story and I lost it. Maybe, it was divine intervention. Maybe, I needed to stop what I usually do and not rewrite but just move forward.
A blank page sat in front of me.
A big, white, blank page.
Staring.
Getting whiter by the minute.
So, I wrote a summary kind of sentence that basically said here we are, sitting in this campground. Then, I wrote. I didn’t finish the novel, but I wrote four or five pages. I’m not even sure of the count. So, this is what I need to do to move forward. Instead of rereading where I’ve been, I need to just look at the blank page. It occurred to me, give the protagonist a boyfriend. Sure, they are living in a campground, but that doesn’t mean she can’t meet someone. And now I have a complication. The story moves forward.
The next day, I said to God and Jesus, thank you for what you did to help me, but I have commitments. I had pages due to a writers group and they are waiting for them.
I figured I wouldn’t look. It seems when you look for something, you can’t find it. I would just start cleaning. I cleared off my kitchen table, which led me to sweep over here and over there. I took the dinner trays at the back of the bed and put them behind my refrigerator.
And there they were. At least a foot from the doorway, behind the refrigerator. Which meant, somehow, while I was walking to the living room, the flash drives leapt from my hands and flew back there. I’ve been calculating in my mind if the trajectory of merely just dropping them would land them that far. I doubt it.
I needed this. I needed to move forward, and I believe God wanted it as well. Is our God awesome or what?
Maybe, he just wants to know the end of the story.

 

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