Today I'm proud to introduce a guest blogger, a good friend of mine, known in fandom, an excellent beta reader (for me, for Sarah Hoyt, and I don't know who-all else!), and talented aspiring author, Courtney Galloway. I'm not going to waste a lot of space here yammering. I'm going to let Courtney speak for herself.
First, a quick thanks to Stephanie, for asking me to blog here as a guest!
Lots of folks have chimed in over time about writing groups and the good, the bad and the sometimes very ugly aspects of them. The question for me has always been, well ok, how do you recover from the bad or the ugly then? For a long time I wasn’t sure I had an answer to that.
Quite a while ago, maybe a year and a half or two years ago, I came up with a fantastic idea for a story. Of course, me being me and having my kind of luck, I came up with it the night before my writer's group meeting and not a week earlier when I could have had a least a few pages to submit. Anyway, I took my little idea to the meeting with me, figuring if nothing else, when we were done with the critiques - if we had time and the guys didn't object, they could help me brainstorm some of the finer points I hadn't fully figured out yet. In theory, this would have been a perfect scenario. I'd already built good trust with these guys and I respect their input and opinions.
However, the reality was that we had a guest that day. Unknown to me, while our guest wants to write - she never has. She had also never been trained on proper critique etiquette. Yes, boys and girls there is such a thing as critique etiquette, i.e.: critique the technical merit not the idea, be polite, keep it impersonal, and all the other lovely hints and tips you find in things like the Turkey City Lexicon.
I asked if the folks would mind helping me brainstorm on my new idea, and everyone was more than happy to. So I laid out my little brain child of an idea, and the guys gave me some very good ideas both on how to address things I hadn't been able to figure out, but also some aspects that hadn't occurred to me yet that would be vital information for the story. Then our guest spoke up, saying that she hated stories that ended that way (open ended for the reader to decide how they want to envision it ended). That they made horrible stories. That she refused to read them and told everyone she knew not to read them. I was quite simply eviscerated and left the meeting rather despondent.
While I stayed in love with my little fragile idea, and took down notes on what the guys had said, I had not been able to put down on the page more than 58 words of story text. Even that text I knew just wasn't quite right, not quite what I wanted it to be. But trying to work on it was about as effective as bashing my head against a brick wall just for the entertainment value.
To be honest, the experience was almost enough to drive me to leave the group if the woman returned. I agonized about the idea, because I really liked the guys - but I just wasn't sure I could deal with this woman's oblivious sabotage. I made the supreme effort, went back, tried to understand her. Which is how I found out she'd never written before, but wanted so badly to, and that she'd never been trained how to critique. The woman is older than I am - roughly late 60's. So I tried to reach her, to reach out to her. I sent her the Turkey City Lexicon and basically trained her on the proper way to do a critique in a writing group. She improved greatly in time. My little story however stayed a stunted, sickly thing.
Today, I finally had the brainstorm I'd been needing so badly. A new opening scene, new aspects of dealing with a tricky part in a smooth and simple fashion that the reader can accept without getting a headache, and enough material to change the basic story enough to let me try again. And perhaps even reclaim it. The basic premise of the story - the idea - is unchanged, but my new view of it is from a different enough angle, that I think I just got my story healed and functional again. YEAY!!
I made all the notes so I wouldn't forget my brainstorming and am hoping to get to the actual writing tomorrow if my luck holds. We're swamped prepping for the trip to TN this weekend [actually in late May ~S.O.] for our niece's graduation. So if I don't get to the actual “words on the page” stage - I'll be all set to do so when we get back!
And I, for one, have no doubt but that she will. And I look forward to reading it.