Group, Writing

Do you write women’s fiction?

Have you heard of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association? It’s a non-profit organization for those who write … well, I guess you figured that out. Their new site went live on September 9 and was jammed temporarily by so many writers trying to join at once. I’m now a proud member too.

wfwa_logo_smAll writers of women’s fiction are welcome: multi-published, debut, and aspiring. Among other things, the association will offer mentorship, critique groups, forums, online workshops, contests, and agent/editor pitch opportunities for members. They’ll also have an annual retreat.

The WFWA’s About Us statement:

We began this organization in 2013 with the idea to create a safe, nurturing place for male and female writers of women’s fiction. The publishing industry is morphing – with new opportunities and, as yet, unknown futures. Some of us came from the Romance Writers of America, where a shift of focus left many of us out in the rain. The founders of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association wanted somewhere to amass and disseminate information to and about our chosen genre.

Defining Women’s Fiction has proven as subjective as the types of books we prefer. For that reason, our guiding statement is broad and comprehensive:

An inclusive organization of writers who create stories about a woman’s emotional journey.

 Our stories may have romance. Or they may not. They could be contemporary. Or historical. But what binds us together is the focus on a woman’s emotional journey.

As you may know, I’ve struggled with the definition of women’s fiction. It’s a very broad category, ranging from chick lit to near literary—but not straight romance. Not everything I write would be categorized as WF. Some would exclude my first published novel, but though Jalal dominates The Brevity of Roses, it’s definitely about Meredith’s and Renee’s emotional journeys as well as his. An Illusion of Trust, the sequel to Brevity, squares firmly with the WFWA definition, as will my next novel.

So, even if you don’t write women’s fiction exclusively, you’re still welcome to join us. Us. Yay! I’m excited to be a part of WFWA. And self-published authors are not considered second class citizens in this group. Another yay!

Linda

Critique, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Group, Revision, Writing

Whence cometh thy critique?

In the last few days, I started three different blog posts and finished nary a one. Obviously, I’m out of touch with my brain right now. I spent two afternoons working in the garden, so it could be an allergy effect. In any case, I have nothing particularly witty or profound to say at the moment. (But I do sometimes, don’t I?)

I am working on both a novel and some short stories. Oooh, I just thought of how Demetri Martin writes with both hands at the same time. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could type on two keyboards simultaneously—one for the short story and the other for the novel chapter? I could be as prolific as Joyce Carol Oates. Not as good a writer, of course, but equally prolific. (Forgive me, I’m writing this with a headache.)

ANYWAY, I’ve been wondering how I’ll get critique on my works-in-progress. I no longer have access to a live critique group, and I’ve never been able to work up enthusiasm for joining online groups where I know no one—or more importantly—know nothing about anyone’s writing skills.

That led me to wondering how you all get feedback on your work. Do you seek it from one, a few, or many? Do you prefer live groups or virtual? Have those preferences changed over time? If you’re in a group, how does yours work? Specifically: How often do you meet? Do you read aloud? Do you receive the work ahead of time and critique at home, so you only discuss it at the meeting? How many members do you think is optimum? Do you critique all lengths of work?

What say ye?

Image © Drawing Hands by M. C. Escher, 1948

Craft, Critique, Dream, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Group, Movies, Novel, Query, Revision, Writing

Scene shifting

I’m still a little dizzy after seeing the movie Inception yesterday. I tried hard to keep each thread of the story straight, but ended up in a tangle. To me, dreams within dreams within dreams … was more confusing than time travel. (Or maybe I was just too distracted by how much Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks like Heath Ledger.) And what about that ending that doesn’t end—did it topple or not? Nonetheless, I felt satisfied with the experience.

I’d like to know how they crafted the Inception storyline. I can’t imagine it was written the way it played out. I would write each dream/reality sequence  chronologically and then shift and intertwine them. But what do I know? I have never, and don’t think I could, write a story like that. Not just because it’s so complicated, but also because I don’t have the kind of writer’s mind for mystery/thrillers. My latest chapter revision is difficult enough.

At my last critique group meeting, we agreed I should rearrange the order of all the scenes in my new opening chapter. On Friday, I printed out the chapter and cut the scenes apart. It looked an impossible puzzle with all the scenes spread out on the table. My first attempt at reordering was a mess; the second was better, and on the third try it fell into place … I think. Then I used a glue stick to put the scenes back together in a new order. Now I’ll have to write new connecting narrative between these scenes.

Another suggestion from my C.P.s was that I might be trying to fit too much information in one chapter, so I’ll be considering that too. All this is good. Deep down, I felt I’d started this novel wrong. Now I’m correcting that. Next up will be a query letter revision. Fun, fun, fun … not.

Your turn: What will you be working on this week?

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Advice, Agent, Craft, Critique, Doubt, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Group, My Books, Novel, Query, Reader, Revision, Short story, Tips, Writing

Mistakes I’ve made as a writer … so far

Today, I’m going to swallow my pride and make an admission. I’m not perfect. I know. Hard to believe, right? But it’s true; I’ve made mistakes in my writing life. Some were minor, some not. Here’s a few biggies.

My first mistake was joining a critique group. Not really. The group was fine; it was the critique I didn’t know how to take. My previous work wasn’t written with an eye toward publication. Two years ago, that changed, and I decided I needed feedback. Inexperienced, I assumed every member of the group knew more about writing than I did. I took every bit of advice to heart and edited accordingly. Eventually, I learned to evaluate the feedback and use only what I felt made my work stronger.

My second mistake was in thinking my book was finished—again and again. Almost exactly one year ago, I thought I had finished at 69,000 words. Then, beta readers said, “Think again.” They were right. So, I edited and revised, finishing again at 82,000 words. I was embarrassed to think I’d quit 13,000 words too soon, but it was done for real this time. Right? “Not quite,” said one final beta reader. Dang. But she was right too. Back to work. Finally, at 84,000 words, I was truly finished. Or not. Something still didn’t feel right to me. I’m now working on another chapter, which will add at least 4,000 words more.

You can probably guess where my “finishing” too soon mistake lead. I also queried agents way too soon—and with a query letter I wasn’t crazy about. So, I guess that’s two mistakes in one! I think the only thing I got right at that point was my 2-page synopsis.

At least some good has come from these mistakes; I’m learning to trust my instincts more. If a suggested change doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t follow it. No matter how much I want to be done with a story or novel, unless I feel deep down that it’s finished, it’s not. And if I’m not confident a piece is my best, it’s not ready for submission.

Your turn: I’m sure you avoided these mistakes, but do you have one of your own to share?

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Agent, Critique, Editor, Feedback, Fiction, Group, Novel, Query, Short story, Writing

They’re all going to laugh at you!

Two years ago, I had lost all contact with other writers. I didn’t have a Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress account. I had never even read a blog! But I was back to spending several hours a day writing, and I needed someone who could relate. So, I googled for a critique group in my area. I discovered one that, coincidently, was having its first meeting the next night.

Did I go to that meeting? Of course I didn’t. I finally worked up enough courage to make it to the third or fourth meeting. And that was only because I feared I would quit writing again, if I didn’t have to answer to anyone. So, when one of my sons offered to go with me because he thought I would never do it alone, I realized how silly I was being and forced myself to go.

I had every intention of getting to know the members for a while before I submitted anything, and listening to their feedback on three submissions that night made me question whether I’d ever be ready to let them read anything I’d written. Then, at the end of the meeting the group leader asked if I could submit for the next meeting and, to my horror, I heard a YES come out of my mouth.

For the next two weeks, I debated whether I should quit the group or face them. I kept hearing Piper Laurie, as the mother in the movie Carrie, shrieking, “They’re all going to laugh at you!” Only, I didn’t quite think they would laugh to my face; I imagined they had already laughed when they read my submission. As it turned out, they gave me some helpful feedback on my story—and no one laughed.

In my rational moments, I didn’t believe they should have laughed, that they had real cause to laugh because, for the most part, I have confidence I can write. I just lack confidence in myself as a writer … or something. There’s a fine line in there somewhere. (Explain this, if you can.)

ANYWAY … now, I’m in the agent querying stage for my novel and every time I look at the list of agents I’ve compiled on QueryTracker, I hear that same Laurie shriek. Every time I paste my query into an email and hit that send button, I suffer a moment of what-have-you-done panic. If I’ve been following an agent on Twitter, I unfollow before I query for fear I’ll recognize my query in one of their can-you-believe-this-stupid-query tweets. But, barring a miracle, I have to query if I want to find an agent who can find an editor who can publish my novel.

At least agents don’t carry chef’s knives … right? Right?

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