Writers Groups by Library and Coffeehouse: The Search Continues

With all the extra time off, I decided to take a look at Meetup.com to see if there were any writers’ groups I might be able to attend in neighboring towns. As it turns out, Meetup has two groups listed, with a flock of evening meetups. (Between my morning shift and getting up early to write, evening a couple of towns over is rarely an option.)

Okay, so I’m daydreaming, again.

The groups have very different “feels” to them. The first meets in a library, and has an incredibly clear THIS is the process type of expectation. A whip-cracking, write that manuscript NOW! kind of thing. (And yes, Write that Manuscript NOW! is something fairly close to the group’s actual name.) The description is very clear about what will happen in the group, and the process the woman who started it follows, and includes several admonitions not to start editing now. (That’s a later week, damn it.)

The second group–clearly more affluent–meets in a coffee shop, and sometimes in members’ homes. (And posting home addresses on the internet? Braver than I am.) There’s less whip-cracking, but the organizers list their credentials for running a group/workshop. (There’s actually a paragraph about each of them in the FAQs.) If I were going to go to one or the other, it would probably be this one.

In both cases, you have people who are setting themselves up as “the experts,” or “in charge,” but in the case of the coffeehouse group, I’m not sure they realize they’re doing it. The coffeehouse group also leaves a lot more flexibility for writers in all stages of creation, so there’s that.

The library group–and again, I’m not sure they understand this–really does restrict the number of writers they’re likely to attract, if they’re trying to run a group with everyone in lockstep. Don’t edit yet?!! Well, that’s exactly what I am doing. There are not enough serious writers in most areas for a group to do well, if it tries to attract only writers in one part of the creation process.

And honestly, I don’t think I’d thrive with someone standing over me saying, “are you done yet? we are moving on to editing, now.”

And it’s not the “workshop” part of the coffeehouse thing that’s appealing. It’s the social hour before hand. The organizers have their credentials, but they aren’t credentials to make a writer swoon. They’re… uhm… well, so does Bob and Ellen, and Kate and Bill and Fred… type credentials. (I do like the idea that they’re going to keep the individual workshop groups small, but again… split by the organizer might not be the way we would split organically.)

Right now, my thought leans toward going there incognito to observe the dynamic in person.

By the time I’m done with that, I’ll probably have my hours back and be unable to go again for quite some time.

Convenient Inconveniences

I would like to point out for the record that it is cold. It’s hovering right around freezing, and here is my little creek to prove the point.

It’s warmer than it has been, and I made it outside for a little sunlight and exercise. The Fitbit informs me that my cardio-health has gone up a whole point, which places me squarely in the middle of average.

Courtesy of managerial incompetence at the day job, I’m getting an extra day off…. uhm… every week. For… HR informs me it shouldn’t be all that long, and please, please, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t quit. Well, you know how it goes. Someone higher up spends money he doesn’t have, and then the company has to make that up somehow.

And I get extra editing and revision time.

We are not going to discuss this with coworkers, of course, because a lot of them are struggling to… feed kids and hobbies like that. They’re even less amused than I am. Right now just happens to be good timing for me.

(I also have a lot more paid personal hours than a lot of people.)

Right this second? My thought is to use the time to finish revising the novel, maybe put together the podcast I’ve been muttering about. Thin out the blog, and maybe re-do my biography. Fiddle around with some short stories.

Sell some short stories.

And maybe I’ll get an exercise bike. Might be interesting to be a little above average.

Did I mention I’m thinking of quitting?

Well, after I soak up the unexpected free time.

Attempted Revision

I am impatient to finish my revision. I feel like it should go faster than it is, and I just can’t kick it any harder.

Sometimes, I think I might be making more progress than I think I am. I have a tendency to work in spurts, and divide my attention between multiple scenes, so nothing gets crossed off the list, but work is still being done.

Today, I decided to sit down and work on just one scene. I want to finish something, damn it. I want to know that I am making progress… or at least be able to fill in a bullet in my brand new shiny bullet journal.

So, I am making progress. That’s one or two bullets that I could fill in…

But they just don’t feel finished.

There’s a lot to be said for the way a scene feels at the end. There are some that feel unfinished, and some that just feel uhm… not mine.

I also have a brief list of marriage-therapy type topics for them to discuss, once they’re alone together. They’ll start with that time she tried to kill him, and work their way up to the time she drugged him and put him in a box.

I’m no expert, but keeping attempted homicide bottled up just doesn’t sound healthy to me.

Bullet Journal Beginnings

Between continental breakfast and travel soda-pop, there is a massive amount of sugar in my body right now. Probably more than I’ve had in the last month. And that does remind me of all the reasons why I shouldn’t be slurping down the sugar. I’m not diabetic, but it does knock me out of the even-tempered, steadily energetic race.

Wheeeee!

I’m in the process of migrating old goals into the new bullet journal, and the current scenes-to-revise count is ten. Wait a minute… yeah. Ten. There is one scene left that is probably more than one scene, but at least it’s in the right place. And there is one scene that may not belong in this book, at all.

I’m making progress.

I’ve decided I need a layout for the stories I put up on Reprobate Typewriter, and a second layout for the stories I intend to submit to outside publications. (And I do. Honest. And this year… well, why not just refer back to last year for the resolutions?)

I’m also putting in a layout for my ongoing quest to read all the Hugo and Nebula winners (just the ones I’m still working on, at this point) and a layout for reading in general.

If I can stick with it, I think it will work for me. I always wind up walking away from a bullet-journal style to-do list with a much clearer idea of what I have to do to meet my goals. The problem is that I don’t do it often enough, and I don’t always have a clear sense of when I’ve moved from clarity to drifting.

I do far too much drifting.

And maybe weekly or daily layouts will help with that. We’ll see.

I’m also going to work on recording time spent revising and the number of new words I come up with in a day.

Anybody have any suggestions before I get too entrenched in my ways? What works for you?

Half an Hour to Go

I’m writing this from the workplace break room. I’m never totally sure what the best way to be productive during an hour full of interruptions. Headphones? A nice, anti-social Rottweiler by my feet? Maybe the truth is that the social stuff is building my network of cheerleaders for when I finally do publish. Uhn… well, it would be, if I were the share the book with the co-workers type.

There’s a very specific look I’ve come to expect when I explain the premise of the novel. Oh, really? Is there a medication you should be on?

You can actually recognize the closet sci-fi readers because they’re the ones who don’t give you that look. Really? Quantum entanglement across time? I thought I was the only one.

The last few days, I’ve had very chatty lunches. Today? Silence.

I really can’t decide whether I’d tell people I write, if I had it to do over again. I go back and forth on that. Are they really being encouraging, or are they just watching for the explosion? Maybe the truth is they ask about the novel the way I ask about their kids. Thrilled that everything is going well, but they don’t really want to hear about the toilet training.

Checking My Sneakers for Earthworms

I’m in the process of researching literary agents for my next round of submissions, which is to say there’s a list. It’s a long list, and it exists on index cards. One agent to a card, and they’re currently organized in blocks, according to genres represented. Whenever I run across a new tidbit of information–if it’s something that matters to me–that goes on the card. And that could be… well, almost anything. (I need things to obsess over.)

Some of this is objective. (Represents Fabulous Author A–a fact.)

And some of it is subjective. (Looks like Cousin Fred. YES. I KNOW. But do you really want a literary agent who reminds you of the exact texture of a sneaker full of earthworms?)

And some of it is stuff I’m still in the air about, but which probably deserves further consideration. (Did THING. No idea how I feel about that, but look. I drew a daisy to indicate I’m thinking about it.)

A list on note cards has a beautiful fluidity to it, and the note cards move back and forth.

Nope. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

Putty-ing in the Plot Gaps

I finally worked out exactly what my main characters will be doing while they are hiding from a homicidal mob. That’s a little bit of an accomplishment for me, since the plot more or less requires them to keep their filthy hands off each other. And it’s not like there’s a thriving night life in most caves or wilderness hiding spots.

They’ll be fine.

I suppose the truth is I could skip directly from them finding the cave to the next step in their poor, author-plagued lives, but I think some development of the relationship between them would be nice.

The original schedule has been all blown to hell looking for a solution for this gap in my plot, but I’m more or less happy with what I’ve come up with.

Might be time to get to work.

Word Counts and Dead Scenes

I went spelunking in the morgue file today. You know. The place where all the tangents and cut plot lines go when you can’t bear to part with them, but you’re fairly sure they don’t belong in this particular book.

I’m looking for things for my two main characters to do while they’re alone together and wandering around the woods. It’s not a romantic interval, or at least, not overtly… so that takes a lot off the table.

I’ve isolated a few things that must happen in the time frame I’m talking about, because, of course, there isn’t anyplace else for them to go. And I’ve figured out just exactly how long they’re wandering around in the woods. And… I’m probably going to be all right. Probably.

The thing that amazes me is just how fast I can go from well and truly over the word count range for my genre to under. Where, exactly, did all those words go? Well, aside from the ones about furniture… and the ones about bath tubs… Well, never mind. Morgue file.

I’m to a point where I’m sure the story won’t be any shorter than it is, right now. I think. But I wish I had more wiggle room.

Because I Just Had to Play With Electronics

I spent a good chunk of this afternoon in search of a mRCA audio to f3.5 mm adapter. The setup is basically this. The Roku box (That’s Roku 1, for any of you spendthrifts who have upgraded in the last five or ten years) is connected via hdmi to a small computer monitor. The monitor does not have built-in speakers, so the audio comes through the RCA audio outputs into a fine, spit-and-bailing wire assembly of speakers that don’t quite fit. It’s not a bad setup, but the speaker that does work doesn’t happen to be the one that has volume control or power. The adapter will let me plug in, control the volume.

The benefit to the whole mess is that you can watch television, (the way I hear normal people do…)  or you can listen to television while you sleep without the disturbance of flashing lights. (’cause you can turn the monitor, but not the speakers off.)

This is my contraption, of course, but it’s the “television” my mother uses. Apparently, the noise drowns out the neighbor, who likes to split firewood.

I really didn’t think the adapter would be that hard to find, but she called ahead. (Easy as pie, sez the guy on the phone.) And then, we got there. (By the way, the adapter that was going to make this easy? they don’t have it. But, if they did, any of their speakers would have worked with it.) (Well, at least we’re having some quality time together, and there is coffee involved.)

By store number two, my mother suggested calling David.

David, of course, would be a childhood friend who went on to a brilliant computer career.

It’s a little like calling Robert Oppenheimer to kill a few spiders in your basement, but by store number three, I was thinking about it.

Store number three, by the way, would be the kind of place where everybody’s on commission, and your best odds of getting help with an adapter would be to go stand in front of the most expensive television possible. It is also the store that failed to sell me a region-free DVD player a few years back.

Store number four was on the way home, anyway.

And from the moment I got home to when there was an adapter on its way to my door? About ten minutes, including the time it took to read Twitter notifications.

Well, yes. I may be a specialty audience.

Writers’ Conferences: Early Registration and Other Disasters

Well, it finally happened. It’s January seventh, and people just started talking about registering for writers’ conferences this summer. Some people just have their conference. Every year, the same conference, and the same place. In the case of that first, early-bird conferencer of spring, they have family near the conference, so going there is easier, cheaper, and doubles as family time.

I’m not that lucky, so whichever conference I go to (If I go… that’s still up in the air) I’ll have to pay for a hotel room, and learn a new city… and… and…

The terrifying thing that came up at the conference I went to last year (my first, BTW) was that it takes about three years to acclimate and really get used to being at a conference. I keep thinking about that, from time to time. Three years. And did I mention that last year was my first real vacation in… uhm… well, more than three years?

So, if I go back… to the same conference… in the same place… for two more years… then, maybe then, I will have acclimated, and it will feel like I belong.

The conference did not feel like a vacation. It was more like going back to school. High school. Complete with the joy of ten-minute sprints to find your next class… and school lunches. (I kid you not, if I go again, I’ll be taking a couple cases of meal-replacement shakes to… well, replace meals.)

On the other hand, I got to meet some of my internet friends, and be with my own tribe for a while. And some of the lectures were really worth going to. (Strangely enough, not the ones you’d expect.)

And then, there’s the overall strategy for approaching captive publishing folks. I fully intend to have a manuscript ready by then. (By before then.) And I intend to be in the midst of querying. In my liturgy of things that could go wrong (and probably will) I have… “But you already rejected me…” and “Well, your round of queries is coming up any minute.” (Newer agents, this year.) The strategy for actually getting an appointment is, of course, to register as soon as humanly possible.

I find myself on the fence about the whole thing.

I want to want to go.

Honestly.