Saturday, March 17, 2007

Starting a Writer's Life?

I have had one long week. Didn't get to bed before 11 PM and averaged a bed time of 12:30 AM. In summary, my time management skills had taken a vacation, and I wanted to do too many things every individual day.

Work has really become a damper to my day, too, especially since it requires me to study for a licensing test at the beginning of April. In addition, I have to deal with a lot of frustrated customers during the day and figure out the intracacies of companies we represent and the laws they don't mention in the industry source book. Combine those two without any real culture of mentorship nor the time for training, and I often feel stranded in the middle of a room without any gravity.

On the flipside, I have had a lot of writing activity this past week. To start, I attended the Chicago Writing Meetup workshop Thursday night, plan on attending a more spontaneous one tonight with the fiancee and a friend then on this upcoming Tuesday, the second Chicago-SF workshop happens.

A mash up of forum/e-mail messages I've made about the Thursday night workshop:

I just received an agenda for the next Writer's Meetup. It looks like they've dedicated about a half hour to each piece. I haven't done that much research into the organization of the group (how they distribute pieces, the culture and so forth), so I don't really know what goes into that half hour.

My report back:

Setting a limit to each piece isn't productive.

Forum thread 2:

Just another observation from the Chicago Writer's Meetup Workshop I attended last night: At least two people (10 or 11 attended) mentioned that that group doesn't work the best for workshopping novels. Apparently has to do with the incosistent attendance of individual members.

Their main problem had to do with, say, they wanted to critique the middle of their novel, they would have to provide a synopsis of the important things that happened up to that point, which could be onerous. I would guess the same thing would have to apply if they were submitting the novel, chapter by chapter, then a new member or more started coming. The new member would need the background to provide a satisfactory critique.

Oherwise, the Thursday night workshop provided me with some amount of culture/age shock. I haven't workshopped with non-age peers before. Most of them obviously didn't fit into my age group, a majority of them having lived 10 or 15 years more than me. At most, three or four of them fit within a 10-year range, up and down, from me that I could tell easily.

Not having a full impression of the group's culture or organization, I still spoke out and didn't face any repercussions or anything except for the usual sense of ego bruising all around for such a large group. Did I forget to mention? 10 or 11 people showed up, and we critiqued 4 pieces. In the end, though, no serious ego bruising, arguments or anything like that. I just formed my (probably wrong) bad impression of at least one person and surprisingly got along well with a person whose piece I found relatively well written but not compelling to me.

As I've mentioned in the past, writing workshops have always proved tricky atmospheres, especially when relative strangers or distant acqauintences fill the ranks. Also, exposure and favoritism to different genres by workshop participants can make things a little more difficult, too, because it take them awhile to start tolerating a new genre then even a little longer to learn how to read and critique such a strange new form.

I don't know how much of my work I'll submit for critique with this group. As I mentioned about genre, a lot of the pieces written for this last meeting fit into the realism/naturalistic genre with a heavy amount of expository character meditations, whether through fantasy or flashback. One guy there talked about his thriller/adventure novels that he published, but I haven't seen anything he's written and have somewhat of a bad impression of him. I wish I had a better way to describe the category that most of the submitters wrote, but they didn't really fit sci-fi/fantasy/thriller/adventure, the type of stuff I usually write. Maybe mainstream attempts at middle to high literature?

Honestly, I wish I had an easier time getting into that type of stuff. Back after getting our school, when I had more time to read, I made a point to switch off between speculative fiction and more realistic fiction. It actually felt unnatural, but I felt too pigeonholed sticking with spec fiction, especially since the "mainstream culture" doesn't necessarily "get it." I wanted to "get" the realistic stuff so as to understand my potential audience more. And at that time, I wanted more understanding of it to find more acceptance in it, too.

I still would like to work on "getting" the mainstream realistic stuff, so I'll continue attending this workshop. My criticism might help someone, and maybe I'll learn to get it more by working with these people.

Having all these workshops to attend also feels like I've gotten a lot more involved in the writer's life. The job that I don't so much like has exposed me to some writing organizations, also, which may help me improve my skill and also get more connections. Who would have thought those type of connections could have come from working in insurance? But yes, I do feel like I'm living something more of an aspiring writer's life. I just want to pass this licensing exam in April and get a better work-domestic-romance-life balance going so I can enjoy living more and not feel so tired at the end of the week.

Ugh. . .oh right, there's also the wedding after I pass the licensing exam. Ugh. . ..


Dawn said...

Lol. I read your comments on my story last night and you just don't like long sentences, do you? None of them, by the way, were actually run-ons from a grammatical point of view--but I do tend to write long sentences as a point of style.

Workshopping this week was fun and useful--I feel like I've been more involved in the "life of a writer" myself.

The_Lex said...

Ha! You're mostly right. I have nothing against long sentences, just when there's a lot of long senstences with lots of information. Variation, good, but long sentences intentionally meant to create a certain effect, very good.

Also, regarding the semi-colon comments, you can probably just ignore those. You used most of them grammatically correct to cancel out the run-on sentence. Didn't know you could do that until I read the run-on sentence entry over at Wikipedia. Very interesting, but now I really want to know what effect they have on the reader.

Commas make good replacements for colons in fiction, though.

I did enjoy our little spontaneous workshop, though, even if my micromanaging, anal-retentive side wanted to whack the two of you upside the head a couple times for engaging in so many tangents. That aspect of me needs testing every once in awhile, though.

For my next entry, I want to write about my exposure to women's fiction during these last two workshops. It has really taken me beyond my comfort zone.

Dawn said...

"Also, regarding the semi-colon comments, you can probably just ignore those."

I did. :-p

There's an interesting short story by Garcia Marquez that's six pages long and only one sentence. I love it.

The_Lex said...

You so artsy. =b