Friday, August 11, 2017

Wordinators and Panels

Two interesting items from this past week: A guest visit to a writer’s critique group in Madison, and a request to apply for another panel for Killer Nashville.

The critique group I visited does things differently than the Writer’s Studio that meets at the MWC office in the lower level of the Rock Island library twice a month. At the Writer’s Studio gatherings, we read a few pages and discus them. The other group in Madison has writers submit pages before the meeting for written comments, questions, and grammatical input. This is an approach I’ve been wanting to experience again. I liked it for a workshop on novel writing I had several years ago. The workshop leader came from Iowa City and it was as close as I could get to the Writer’s Workshop without enrolling in the U of I. (That old workshop was where I first came face to face with “comma splicing.” Didn’t know it existed until then. Can I handle it now? No comment.)

I think the Madison critique group's approach to grammar, hence the introduction to the term “Wordinator,” was quite helpful. Like a higher-level Beta reader. As one guy put it, “You combine all of us together and you get one good editor.” (Or words to that effect.)

My thoughts after 2 hours of 5 people going over 13 pages of manuscript: be constructive, be supportive, and be brief.

About the same time as I was working on my critique pages, I received an email the founder of Killer Nashville saying, “I want to make sure I portray you in your best light.” So, I could apply for a position on another panel.

I went through the KN schedule and made a list of panels I might be able to offer something constructive to and wrote down my thoughts:

Creating & Weaving Subplots

I read Kathy Reichs first novel, Deja Dead, and felt that she threw in everything but the kitchen sink. I was impressed with the complexities. So, I was not averse to add a lot of subplots to my novel. I have a missing painting, a fake painting, a destroyed painting, a Swede with a fake name, four villains with ulterior motives, detailed description of a village in Illinois, and lots of family secrets. The thing that (hopefully) saved me became clearer with a comment I heard from Ethan Canin: “There are lots of ways to build plot, characters, etc. There’s only one way for a story to go wrong: fail to pose one and only one emotional question for the reader.” (11-11-16)

Bad Boys (and Girls): The Villains You Can’t Forget

I love my villains. Once created I couldn’t get rid of them by pinning them with the crime. At a panel for Murder & Mayhem in Chicago the moderator asked for any examples of a mystery that didn’t have a killer. I was too shy to raise my hand, but I did slip her my card afterward with a note about the metaphor I thought was most important to me. (And yes, that was going against the advice of one of my editors, but I had to make a point for my theme of preservation. Just another stubborn writer I guess.)

Lighten Up, You are Where You’re Supposed to Be: Keeping Perspective

There is a YouTube video of J. K. Rowlings giving a commencement address where she talks about the lowest point in her life and how she had to focus completely on getting one thing right, her first novel. I can identify with that. I’m a late bloomer as a writer and I had a lot of ground to make up. I did one thing, my first novel, and not much else for years. Because of that singlemindedness I don’t have an impressive resume for publications, but I feel I did my best at getting my message across in the novel. (If I didn’t, well, there’s the 2nd book.)

I’m Not the Same Anymore: Character Arcs

Early on a friend made me promise to have my protagonist grow and change. I kept that in mind. Workshops taught me that there are positive and negative arcs. Upward and downward. I have used both. And none. It was pointed out that some characters don’t change, i.e. Jack Reacher.

(There’s a YouTube video of Curt Vonnegut diagraming story plots. Love the visual aspect of it. Might be useful for this panel.)

Buy My Book and Pay Me to Speak

I had to have a fifth entry on the form and I picked this for no other reason than I’m thinking about it now. 

No comments:

Post a Comment