In the most unlikely of places

As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who will challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life — Amy Poehler

I’m very excited about this upcoming weekend. I get to hang out with my technical advisor (for my novel) and meet some new folks along the way. Not sure how much hands-on stuff I’ll get to do but I’m hoping to deepen my knowledge base on what my advisor is so well-versed in.

Aside from deepening my knowledge base, what I’m wistfully hoping for, is to make new creative connections and find new and challenging ways to push my storytelling abilities. Even if it’s not obvious right away, I wouldn’t mind if the potential for collaboration (done in a similar vein with my advisor) appeared somewhere down the road. It doesn’t have to happen right away unless there is a reason for it. I’m thinking about the need-to-be-told stories that haven’t made themselves know to me yet.

It also provides me with a break from the grind. Taking the break will be good for reinvigorating and redoubling my writing efforts.

I have no idea what to expect or what will happen in terms of meeting the other folks. I’d be happy with uncovering a kernel of an idea that can grow into something worth telling.

As it stands, I’m eager for Friday to arrive so that the adventure can begin. I’m eager to reset my brain. I’m eager for all sorts of possibilities to reveal themselves this coming weekend.

I tend to find inspiration in the most unlikely of places and in the most unlikely moments. This coming weekend fulfills both requirements.

Friday can’t come soon enough.

Reading and doing

I don’t have many friends. It’s not because I’m a misanthrope. It’s because I’m reserved. I’m self-contained. I get all my adventures in my head when I’m writing my books – Ian Rankin

Last Saturday evening, the writing group that I am a member of participated in a reading at a local book store/café. It was our first as group.

I have to say it was more fun than going to a dentist’s appointment. Bad comparison? Probably.

I think it was Jake MacDonald’s (our writing mentor) way of getting us to speak publicly and to get used to the idea of being out there. Individually, each of us have varying degrees of experience speaking publicly. Jake wouldn’t have made us do this unless he felt we were ready as a group to show a small part of the world what we had to share as storytellers.

One of my girlfriends was able to attend the reading and was impressed by the group. She noted while everyone’s style and topics were different, there was a common theme of personal experience that tied the stories together. Just so you know, we didn’t plan it that way. Just happened to be that way. I thought it was pretty cool she would notice that. It’s always good to have someone outside the group provide feedback and observations.

And wouldn’t you know it, the writing group (well, the members who were present) has decided on putting together an anthology. The anthology will be self-published. Shelley threw the idea out at us and everybody seemed to be on board with the concept. Jake really liked the idea and thought it would be a great project for the group.

The next time the group gets together, we will have to determine who else is on board with this idea and get the ball rolling. Shelley and I already discussed the production side of the book since it’ll be a DIY kind of thing. I’ve told her I can take the worry out of the production process by handling the design and layout of the book. As for setting deadlines and who will edit the stories, it looks like we will be discussing that as well at the next gathering.

I have to admit I’m excited about being part of an anthology. There was a brief discussion about whether or not there would be a theme to the anthology and the decision was ‘no,’ citing how a theme might be too limiting to deal with. I have to concur with the decision because there are only two or three members (including me) who write fiction and the rest write non-fiction/memoir. That in of itself shouldn’t and probably isn’t a good enough reason for not going with a theme. But given our personal leanings in our writing, agreeing on a theme could be difficult.

If there are no ‘limitations,’ aside from the maximum number of words for the short story we will submit for the anthology, I’ve got a somewhat unformed idea madly bouncing around in my head, trying to find an opportunity to reveal itself. It doesn’t have a place in the main writing project I’m working on. But the anthology seems like a good place for it. My fellow writers are very aware of my tendency to go places where things habitually get a little heated for one reason or another. So, they shouldn’t be surprised when I throw out the idea or offer up a rough draft of my NC-13 rated story at the next meeting. Apologies for using a film rating term but it works.

A part of me wants to write stuff just to see if I can land in hot water over the subject matter. That would be the rebel/shit disturber in me coming out. If someone told me ‘No you can’t write that!’, I’d probably say ‘Go fuck yourself’ and barrel off to tell the story because it needs to be told.

For this new endeavour, I just want to have a little fun with the writing. Granted, my definition of fun may not be run-of-the-mill, but I’m bound and determined to enjoy myself in this particular process.

Well, Jake did describe me as someone who marched to the beat of her own drum when he was introducing me to the crowd at the reading.

Throw in a guitar and a piano and maybe some great music will come out of this.

Collaboration within the editing process

In a way, editing is not unlike the movies. The best books, just like the best movies, are a collaboration. They’re only as good as the compromise made between the artists involved.
— Viggo Mortensen

Last Monday, I sent a copy of my manuscript (first draft) to a friend who happens to be an editor.

She doesn’t live in the same city as I do, but at one time, she did. I know there are perfectly good editors who live here and are capable of editing my novel. However, I know my friend and I know how she is when she is in copy editing mode. She’s great. I have a ton of respect for her skills and experience.

When I got to a point where I had to consider finding a person to story edit and line edit the manuscript, my friend was at the top of the list. Honestly, she was the only one on the list.

What would I have done if she wasn’t available to do the job, you ask? Simple. I would have looked for someone in the city. My writing mentor would have helped me locate a good editor. But handing over the manuscript to a complete stranger would have been nerve-wracking. I would have feared his or her personal biases, proclivities or bug-a-boos would have derailed the essence of the story and I would have ended up overhauling the manuscript in order to appease one person’s idea of a good or great story. That would have guaranteed a shouting match and sugar in the gas tank, courtesy of yours truly.

I am open to discourse and a different point of view with regards to my writing. It’s a learning process and I want to learn. I want to be better. I want to make the story (and subsequent stories) better. There are things where I absolutely need a second pair of eyes to make sure the novel is offering its best foot forward. Grammar, writing style, continuity, etc. If I can’t develop a more than stellar relationship with the person who is editing my manuscript, I’m hitting the road and looking for another one.

Luckily, I didn’t have to go through that. I have great relationship with my editor which is based on respect and friendship. I’m comfortable with her questioning anything related to the manuscript and making me think twice about the way I’ve approached a scene or developed a character. So far, based on the discussions we’ve had regarding the manuscript, I know the ability to write a good piece of fiction is in my wheelhouse. And that is pretty fucking exciting to me.

When Mortensen says the best books, like the best films, are a collaboration and only as good as the compromises made by the artists involved, I completely agree. I believe in collaboration when and where it is necessary. By putting the manuscript into the editing process, I am collaborating with my editor, my friend, to shape it, fine-tune it and hopefully, make people sit up and notice it.

She looks at this process as a collaboration, too, and I couldn’t have picked a better person with whom I could share the journey of becoming a published writer. It’s great to hear her perspective. We’ve discussed what my plans are for the novel. She’s made constructive remarks and has an interesting atmospheric description for the novel. She used the words “film noir” which blew me away because I never gave a lot of thought about the ambient feel of the novel and for her to describe it that way was so cool. It is cool.

Through her eyes and sensibilities, I get an opportunity to develop a better sense of who I am as a writer. She’s making me think about the storytelling choices I’ve made for the characters (sometimes the storytelling choices have been made by my characters and not necessarily me… yeah, it sounds strange and flaky, but it’s true).

I could not be more excited about working through this next step in becoming a published author.