Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tinker Mountain -- Day Last

Tinker Mt. Writers Workshop is over for 2011. It ended on Friday with the last critiques, a group discussion on publishing, hugs and promises to stay in touch.

I forced a group shot for the old blog and to send to the rest of the group. I can hear everyone now: I look awful, I'm not looking at the camera, I didn't want to be in the shot. And where am I? Behind the camera. My camera, my rules.

What started as a group of strangers ended as a group of friends who all wished each other success and improvement in writing.

I left with pages of notes and suggestions for improving Max 1. I also took away a couple of tips to share:

  • Hire a line editor before you send your manuscript out. I cannot edit for typos and catch them all. You probably can't either.
  • When getting ready to edit or rewrite, expand the side margins. Set them at 2" to give you more space to scribble changes.
  • Never throw away anything you cut from your manuscript. Open a file and paste the deletions in it. You might want them at a later date.
  • Don't give you deletions file a negative name, like "Rejects," "Bad Stuff, or "Crap," etc. It's only a reject for the present work. My deletions file is called "Parking Lot."
  • When you are really, really serious about submitting a long manuscript to an agent, and when you are really, really ready, format your manuscript and send it to a company like Lulu. Pay to get one copy of your book bound. If you can afford it, you will never regret the money you spend. You can't imagine how different your book reads when it is a book and not a manuscript.

    And now, I have to do justice to my teacher and thank Fred Leebron for his guidance and inspiration for the past week. I went into the workshop hoping to learn a few things. Instead, I learned where and how to "fix" Max 1. Now, I have to execute what he taught me.

    Write now, right now.
  • Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Tinker Mountain -- Day Four

    Day four ended on a high note. We had three excellent critiques of vastly different novels in the afternoon. Our Cuban, writing in a second language, offered a story about Cuba in the 1930s based on his father's life. Wonderful language, excellent characters, great dream sequences, lousy grammar. Our advice was keep writing and hire a copy editor when you get closer to submission.

    We had a Southern Gothic novel, where one of the chapters was complete enough to stand alone as a short story. We encouraged her to submit to various magazines for publication.

    The last work was a fantasy that doesn't work as well as the writer thinks it does. We liked parts of it, disliked other parts, and thought it should be cut back by about half. This writer is in an MFA program and thought she would teach us everything she's learned. Turns out it's not as much as she thinks it is. She didn't like our critiques because we were too stupid to get her work. Besides, we weren't her audience. As she matures, perhaps her ability to interact with grown ups will mature as well.

    We ended with a bar-b-que and an open mic night. Our shiest member got up and read the first poem she's read in public. She was terrified, but she did it. The poetry teacher challenged each of us to write a poem without a title. I recited mine:

    A haiku undeserving of a title

    Ice-shrouded world,
    One slippery step,
    Technicolor moon.

    And on that note, I must go and read the last materials for tomorrow.

    What a great experience. I want to come back next year and take the writing about trauma workshop.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Tinker Mountain - Day Three

    Okay, so today was my critique. I submitted the requisite 20 pages, properly formatted with the right type size. Once the group got started, it was all I could do to keep from giggling.

    Some didn't like Max's snarkiness. Others thought she killed her husband. Some thought Merry was murdered. All thought Max was too flippant when her daughter was dying.

    Then came the comments about the paragraph length. Too short. And the chapter length. Too short. I took tons of notes, hiding my smile behind my hand.

    Finally, Fred Leebron, the teacher, asked if the group's opinion would change it they read the exerpt as commercial fiction, not literary fiction. Silence. More silence. Then one voice said, "never mind."

    And that's when I started to laugh.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Tinker Mountain -- Day Two

    Day two dawned crisp and cool, the dreadful heat of the previous week having given up its grasp. The coolness invited many of us to sit on the porch of the main building in old fashioned rocking chairs, early in the morning, before coffee, reading the materials for the afternoon critique sessions.

    We had reading time in the morning, followed by a session on selecting only those details that matter to the piece you are writing. Easier said than done, for it is so much fun to pile on details, lists of nouns, strings of adjectives, adverb upon adverb. We learned to cut out everything that doesn't have a purpose, including most of our beloved darlings. Yup, time to slaughter darling phrases once again.

    Tomorrow, I'm on the hot seat. I submitted the first 20 pages of my rewrite of Mad Max 1, based on the criticism I received from three New York editors and one agent. I'm curious to see how it survives the critiques of twelve no-longer-strangers. Should be interesting. Either I will emerge with even more suggestions for improvement, or I'll emerge whimpering and bloodied. Or a combination thereof.

    I'll let you know tomorrow.

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Writers Workshop -- Day One

    Day one of Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop. Actually, we met last night and picked up reading assignments. I moved into my first dorm since I was an undergrad. In the Bay Area. In 1967. The only thing that has changed in dorms is this one is air conditioned. My last one at Stanford was the freshmen boy's dorm, complete with urinals and no air conditioning. Still need flip flops for the shower. Still need to carry all my personal potions to the bath morning and night. Still have walls much too thin, but hey, it's only for a week.

    We had a full afternoon in which we were supposed to critique two submissions. We got through one in two hours. With eleven writers and about twelve hours for critiquing -- you do the math. I learn from listening to others speak and picked up a couple of new techniques for looking at my novel. I'll try them when I get home.

    We have student readings tomorrow night. I'm thinking about signing up to read my poem Three Weeks. Don't know yet if I'll read or not. I'll sign up and decide tomorrow morning.

    I'm off to read two submissions for tomorrow's session. Each submission can be up to 20 pages, so we have a lot of paper to cover. More tomorrow.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    Cutting Back

    Not everyone will be happy with me, but the first thing that has to go in my new sabbatical, or "it's only about me," is the Naked Writers critique group. I just don't have 30 hours a month to put in on it until I finish rewriting Max 1.

    Four of us have been meeting every two weeks to critique long-form works. One is writing a memoir, the other three are working on novels. I've been getting help on Max 2, but that has to go on hold.

    I have to get Max 1 right. And I don't really have any time to think about other things I want to work on. I hate to let my group down, so I hope they understand. After meeting for nearly six months, I've probably offered enough suggestions for the individual writers to fly without me.

    I already miss the critiques. I'll be taking the first 20 new pages to the Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop in ten days. I'll see if I'm on the right track then.

    Phooey. Too much to do, too little of me to go around.