Writing Update: Somebody Knows

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Thank goodness for writer friends!

I’ve been struggling with this story and one of the elements that really had me confounded was whether the main character was part of the Marines or Navy during World War II.
 
He couldn’t be both, right?
 
For certain aspects of the story, it made far more sense that he was part of the Navy, but for other parts it made more sense that he was a Marine.
 
I put this conundrum before some friends and . . . it turns out he CAN be both, just not at the same time.
 
A friend brought up a story about someone he knew of who had been in the Navy on D-Day then honorably discharged and not much later joined the Marines.
 
Problem solved.
 
It is good to have writer friends with whom you can complain . . . I mean “discuss” the problems you are having with your story.
 
It’s good to have friends to discuss your problems with, period.
 
🙂
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Writing Status Update: Clothes Pegs

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I haven’t written much historical fiction and certainly not something for which there is such a good historical record. Writing something of this nature has advantages and disadvantages. It requires a good bit more research than my regular fiction.

To that end, I’ve been reading Iwo Jima Recon: The U.S. Navy at War, February 17, 1945 by Dick Camp. It has a huge amount of information on the Navy Underwater Demolition Teams – how they volunteered for the job and the training, as well as the Japanese fortifications, bombardment of the island prior to the landing, timing of events, and everything else relevant. It has been fascinating.

I also watched the 2002 movie Windtalkers with Nicholas Cage and Adam Beach. That was much harder. It is a very realistic movie in some ways, depicting the confusion and horror of battle. It was downright nauseating for me at times, but useful.

When writing a story, I try to make use of whatever filters through my brain, and applies. While writing this story, I had a dream that I was in a small house that was picked up, largely intact, and carried into a huge tornado. The next day I wrote that in as part of the back story for one of my two main characters.

At our last writer’s group meeting, a work-in-progress from another writer sparked a discussion on the difference between a clothespin and a clothes peg. That night I dreamt of carving names into clothes pegs so that got written into my story as something a main character’s girlfriend does to remember people who have volunteered for military service, as she hangs the laundry to dry or takes it in.

Now I’m working some more on that big story picture – plot points that I know have to be there and the reality of timing during the reconnaissance with the fictional movements of my characters.

I’ve learned far more than will ever go into this story, but hopefully it will enrich the narrative the way a good broth base does for a soup.

Weekly Writing Update: Sharing Stories

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I currently have five short stories and a novel submitted to potential publishers, and two more short stories I need to pick potential homes for.

It’s a little like holding a lottery ticket. You want to find out whether you won or not but the anticipation is wonderful fun as well. Schroedinger’s cat is still alive! Yes, there’s fun in both creating and sharing. That sharing can take a multitude of forms. There’s at least one story that I’ve shared with my writer’s group which I may never send out, but it was cathartic just writing it and sharing it with them.

Yesterday, I sent a copy of my poetry book to Brené Brown on a whim. I recently read her book, Braving the Wilderness, and so many things she said resonated with poems in my book that I wanted to share it with her. She may never read it, may never even see it if someone opens her mail for her, but I sent it.

Making connections, sharing who we are, is a big part of why we’re here. Sometimes I see memes that say things like “I should just keep quiet, nobody cares.” Bullshit. I care, I’m interested in people’s stories and what they think, and I’ve found over time that whatever it is I think or feel, there are plenty of people out there who feel the same way.

So, keep on sharing your story. Somebody may be waiting to hear it.

Buick Enclaves are Following Me!

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This past week has been a fun one even though I’m suffering with one of those awful summer colds where zinc doesn’t diminish the fires of hell burning in my throat. I keep watching more people like the post with the cover of my book and then I invite them to like the page.

And I’m really looking forward to the write-in at my library on Saturday. We welcome everyone who writes but most of the people who come will be from my regular writer’s group. People sometimes thank me for running it but the truth is that I get just as much out of it as I put in. It helps keep me focused on my writing goals. I don’t think I’d have accomplished nearly as much as I have if it weren’t for the group.

I don’t know how close I am to the goal of my writing starting to pay me back financially for all the work I put into it but I play a little game, it’s called “Buick Enclaves are Following Me!” Whenever I go out to write, usually at a coffee shop, I always watch for the Buick Enclaves, particularly red ones. Sunday I stopped at the coffee shop to write for a bit and afterward I went to the grocery store. Just before I turned into the store, a red Buick Enclave passed me going in the other direction. As I was walking out of the store, a dark blue one drove by in the parking lot. They’re my little sign from the Universe, I like to believe, that I am in the right place at the right time, doing what I should be doing.

Do you have anything like that? Little signposts along the road?

Giving and Receiving Feedback or Critiques

I facilitate a writer’s group as part of my job as a librarian, a very enjoyable part that I’m grateful to have.  It has helped keep me thinking about my writing when other things in life were intent on distracting me.  The wonderful, and difficult thing, about writing groups is the ability to share your writing with others and receive feedback.

It is immensely helpful to a writer trying to improve their work to hear what other people think and heard about a piece of writing.  (It’s also wonderful for the author to get to hear someone else read it out loud.  Is that really what I wrote?)  It can also be terribly difficult to hear the suggestions for improvement for something you’ve already put so much time and effort into.  The most important thing that I think people giving or receiving feedback/critiques need to remember is that it is the writer’s story.

For the writer receiving feedback, it can be disheartening to have people tear apart your writing.  I think it’s a good idea not to share a piece of writing until you have a clear vision of what you want it to be.  Then you can listen to the feedback, decide what applies and discard the rest.

This past week at our writer’s group I was both the person giving feedback to another and on the receiving end of feedback.

I admit I was slightly annoyed by the feedback I received.  It was based on a short free write that I had done a couple weeks before and shared, something we do at the beginning of every group to put us in the right frame of mind.  The person giving me feedback knew that it was part of a novel I was working on and proceeded to tell me how I should develop the story, in detail.  He forgot that it was my story.  He was developing a different story in his mind based on my initial free write but it wasn’t my story.  He was trying to help but it wasn’t help I had asked for, wanted or that was useful.  I politely said that the work had developed far beyond what I had done in the free write, by about 40,000 words, and that I would be sharing it with the group soon.   I could tell he wasn’t happy with that but I remembered that it was my story and held firm.

Another author shared a short story that we gave feedback on.  We tried to be specific and helpful but it seemed to me that she was feeling a little overwhelmed by what we gave her.  Afterward I reminded her of the caveat to take what is useful and discard the rest because it is her story, but it also reminded me of a technique for writer’s workshop that I learned when I was taking my English degree.

The idea is simply to tell the author two things you liked about the work and give them two things that you think could be improved upon.  Because we often only give feedback once in our group, due to time constraints and deadlines, the second half of the advice, which is predicated on the writer working on their story and bringing it back to the group, often doesn’t quite work.  We need to give all our notes in one sitting.  But the first part of the advice is still applicable.

No matter how problematic a piece of writing is, you can almost always find two things to complement the author on.  This helps cushion the blows they are about to receive with the critique.  It gives them something to cling to before you throw the other comments at them.  It’s a good practice, a kind one, that helps make it easier for the author to really hear the critical comments instead of curling up into a defensive ball.

I intend to remind the group, and myself, of it before the next meeting.