Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Crit groups, Scrotums, and Other Writerly Topics

E's finally on the mend which means I'm slowly digging myself out from under my to-dos. So far this week I've finalized:

1. Crits for critique group. This included reviewing and making comments on J's and A's submissions prior to today's meeting. I've heard some people refer to crit groups as time sinks. This might be true in some groups. Thankfully, this isn't the case in ours.

The way I see it, reading J's and A's work is both a privilege and a blessing. Doing so allows me to think about craft in concrete ways so that I can articulate what's working and what raises questions in everything I read and write, even my own work. For example, critiquing has trained me to identify the elements that help make a scene sing.

Questions I might ask as I study a piece: What techniques is the author using to bring this scene to life? Poetic language? Sentence structure? Dialogue? Details? Pacing? All of the above? How? Ideally, identifying and articulating the specifics an author uses to accomplish one thing or another will assist her the next time she returns to her story, and, suprisingly enough, the next time I return to mine.

The same thinking applies to areas that raise questions. If I can't picture what's happening on the stage of a story, I look for reasons why this might be the case. If an scene isn't working, dialogue sounds stilted, or a character falls flat, I look for areas that might be tweaked or reworked to achieve greater power or clarity.

Our group meets biweekly. Each time we meet, I come away having learned something...a technique to use in the next scene or snippet of dialogue in my current work-in-progress, another way to establish setting, a fresh way to describe something or someone, solid tried and true ways to inform and improve my own writing.

For me, participating in a crit group--the right crit group--isn't a time sink. It's an investment.

2. Edge of the Forest interviews. One--A Day in the Life with author extraordinaire Laura Ruby--is in my editor's inbox (unless cyber gremlins have intercepted it.) The other---
What's in Their Backpack with author/independent bookseller Elizabeth Bluemle--is nearly finished.

3. My sub for crit group. Okay, so technically, I didn't sub in time for crit group. But I'm listing it as done anyway because I made good headway on the next J chapter despite illness and life in general (more than I would have done had crit group deadline not been staring me in the face.)

On tap for the rest of the week: KM and nothing but KM

Current read: The Wall and the Wing by Laura Ruby.

On deck: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron. (Especially curious to read the scrotum reference in context so I can decide for myself if the hullabaloo about the word so many believe Should Not Be Said in the middle grade classroom is worthy of so much drama.

(ETA variety of comments 3/8/07.)

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