Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When Last We Met…

On Sunday, February 21, 2010, the Magic City Writers met and reviewed nothing.  Which is not to say we did nothing, but I am getting ahead of myself.  

The meeting was small; just Kathryn, Lindy, and Myself.  Nicole was unable to attend again, though she is hopeful that she will be return to the group in the not too distant future. 

Now onto the food.

Let’s Torture Alex by Mentioning What We Ate

We went for a simple fare this time.  I grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken on the grill while Kathryn made tater tots.  We took advantage of the slightly warmer weather to eat on gazebo and enjoy the garden and waterfall.  As a snack we had ice cream on popsicle sticks.  A very tasty meal with plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week.

An Now What We Did

Since no one had anything ready to submit, we did a variety of writing exercises.  Lindy brought an art book and we took turns picking pictures and writing whatever the images inspired.  Later we listened to songs for inspiration.  

The exercises displayed our propensities,strengths, and weaknesses.  We allowed ten minutes per exercise, which for me is enough to generate a few brief paragraphs at most.  Kathryn  in the same time wrote well over a page.  Lindy was somewhere between the two of us.  My writings and Lindy’s tended to have dark themes, while Kathryn’s were more light-hearted. 

I tried to focus on character development, my greatest weakness as a writer.  I also made special effort to “show, not tell”, i.e. to describe the character’s actions and use dialogue so that the reader discerns their emotional state without being explicitly told what that state is. 

Personally, I found the exercises quite helpful and refreshing change of pace from our normal editing process.

The Remains of The Day

Lindy left relatively early and Kathryn and I retired to watch Juno, a quirky movie which we enjoyed.  Before Lindy left we agreed to meet again on March 7th, and placed the onus of turning something in on me. 

Oh, joy.

I guess that means I need to get off my ass and force myself to start writing ASAP.  Which, of course, is part of the purpose of the group.

Until next time, have fun and party down.

Monday, February 1, 2010

When Last We Met…

On Sunday, January 31, 2010, the Magic City Writers met and reviewed (again) chapter four, …And Strikes Down The Inner Circle, from of my epic, Gods Among Men

This is the first meeting of the group since November of last year, the holidays and bad schedules making previous attempts to meet impossible.   I hope we can maintain a bit more regular schedule for the next few months.

Nicole was unable to attend this meeting, and will likely miss a few more meeting before she will be able to turn once again to writing.   Her presence and insightful comments were missed.

As you can tell from the current date, I am more than a little late getting the post about the meeting finished.  The week vanished rather quickly under a blizzard of bills, the return of Lost, and laziness on my part.  I apologize for the delay.

Much occurred during the meeting, but  first lets talk about the food.

Let’s Torture Alex by Mentioning What We Ate

The food was excellent.  (Is it ever not?)

Kathryn and Brant made a marinara sauce following a recipe Brant calls “Keep throwing chopped up vegetables and tomato sauce into an 11-quart pot until they threaten to overflow, add a pint of garlic and other spices, then simmer for the afternoon”.  This recipe never turns out the same way twice, but is always tasty.  Once ready it was served over angel hair pasta.

As a pre-dinner snack, we ate a piƱa-colada/French bread pudding that Kathryn had made the day before.   Delicious without ruining our appetites for dinner.

Changing The Editing Format

Lindy suggested a change to our normal chaos-driven format for going over reviews.  Always eager try new things, we  followed a pattern she has had some positive experience with lately.

First each person, one at a time, lists all of their positive general comments.  After everyone has made their positive general comments, each person lists their negative comments.   During this period,  the author being reviewed sits quietly taking notes, not interrupting, save perhaps to ask for clarification. 

After all general comments are finished, the group begins making specific comments about sentences or paragraphs, or ask what the author was smoking when they wrote something.

I think this technique has much to be said for it, and I look forward to trying it out a few more times before passing final judgment on it.  One immediate advantage is that we made it through the general comments faster than normal and got into the line-by-line edits relatively early.

And Now Back to Ripping My Chapter Apart

Actually this was one of the less brutal sessions for me.   There are lingering problems, but  far fewer structural problems than in reviews of my previous chapters, or of this chapter when it was last reviewed.  

Everyone liked the center section, and were especially fond of a minor character whose personality and role was significantly improved during my last rewrite.  There was the usual complaint that I am too plot constrained and often do not have the best characterizations.   A failing of my writing that continues to plague me, but there was overall improvement even in this area.

I walked away with a list of specific suggestions that will be easy to incorporate, for the most part, and which will make the chapter stronger in the end.  I doubt there will be a need for me to resubmit this chapter to the group again.

The Remains of The Day

Lindy stayed around and worked on some art homework.  She left relatively early, after which Kathryn and cleaned up and dallied in individual pursuits for a bit. 

Later Kathryn and I gathered to watch a mini-series off our NetFlix Instant Queue called The Color Of Magic.  This is a fairly faithful adaption of the first two books for Terry Pratchett comedy/fantasy Discworld series.  While this might not be to everyone’s taste, we enjoyed it immensely.

We plan on meeting again near the end of February to review a submission of Kathryn’s. 

Until next time, have fun and party down.