The Page a Day Writers Group

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Startup Stock PhotosWorking on a memoir?
Join Kirsten Imani Kasai for a 3-hour workshop on Tuesday June 6 at San Diego Writers Ink and learn how to mine your memories and life experiences to craft the compelling memoir or personal essay that you yearn to write. We’ll explore different techniques for finding the narrative amidst our memories, identifying elements of our story and discuss how to use creative license to handle fuzzy or painful memories. You’ll also discover how to bring real people to life as characters and identify what role you play within the story.

$45 for member/$54 for nonmembers

Register now

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Are you doing anything May 8 through 15? This is last minute notice, but if you’re a writer, you should know the Writers’ Retreat

Me at WRW

Me at WRW

Workshop (WRW) has a few spots left for the upcoming annual event that will change your life. This year, it’s being held at Purple Sage Ranch, just outside of Antonio, Texas.

Here’s how it works: A fabulous professional editor, agent, or bestselling author gives a workshop. Then everyone goes back to their rooms and uses their shiny, freshly acquired new tools to write or revise their butts off. Then you share in whole and small groups to give and get feedback to revise some more. The pros also view your work to give direction to take your writing to the next level. With all this guided practice, you and your fellow WRW writers provide some of the most amazing feedback in critique groups anywhere. Another bonus is the connections you make with writers from all over the U.S. and often from other countries, such as Belgium and Australia.

And there’s partying along the way for those who wish to join in the fun.

When you rejoin the real-world after your week-long reprieve with awesome, like-minded, creative people, WRW adds you to the list serve. WRW participants since 1987, many of whom are successful, published writers, post news and personal events through the site, available to members only. Any alumni may participate in any conversation. I’ve made friends through the list serve and on Facebook that I’ve never met personally.

Purple Sage Ranch: Home of WRW 2014

Purple Sage Ranch: Home of WRW 2014

The 2014 instructors include: bestselling thriller author Grant Blackwood (Briggs Tanner Novels, Fargo series with Clive Cussler), Literary Agent Mary C Moore (Kimberley Cameron agency), YA and romance author Emily McKay (The Farm, The Lair), writer/editor Les Edgerton (The Bitch, Hooked), director and instructor Jason Sitzes, co-founder and author Gail Provost Stockwell.

If you’re a writer who is ready for an intense upgrade in your craft, your understanding of the publishing industry, and the how-to of marketing your work, don’t miss this chance to become the writing professional you want to be!

If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to check out this amazing writers’ experience, so here’s the link: http://writersretreatworkshop.com/events.html

 

Happy writing!!

The weeks are flying by; I’ve completed week four of my twelve-week online book-writing class with Kathie Giorgio. I can honestly say, thanks to this class, my story is leaping along like a gazelle. I also find I’m thinking back to the class I took with Drusilla Campbell, and appreciating how much I learned with her, as well. I feel so fortunate to have been nudged along by two such fantastic mentors!

When I took Campbell’s class, my “rough draft” was more like a mass of morphing cells than a living, breathing story. It was so nebulous and and fragile at that stage. I was still forming the story arc, and also had a very difficult time building conflict into the plot—a basic cornerstone of any viable story.

I’ve since nurtured my writing self with conflict coaching:

“Got conflict?” (coffee mug)

“Three cheers to conflict!” (office flag)

“Treat yourself to a heaping helping of conflict today!” (kitchen banner)

“Your characters are allowed to be in conflict.” (screensaver)

“Characters need to be in conflict with each other and themselves. Otherwise, no story!” (computer screen Post-It)

I remember Campbell’s edict that in each scene, one of the characters is not allowed to get the thing they want. Or, if they do get it, there must be a price. Until the resolution. Then, they might finally be allowed to have what they want. But they must have changed in the process. Or their environment must have changed.

Before taking this class with Giorgio, I wrestled with my mass of nebulous cells— my messy, primordial ooze of slopped-together scenes—until I had more of a real rough draft. So, now I have more to work with, but still lots to work on.

Which brings me to week four’s feedback ): don’t leave essential characters invisible to the reader for too long, or a) it’s very confusing; b) the story won’t flow as well; c) the story won’t be as believable.

My main character, Agave, has gone through a horrendous transformation. While she grapples with life after the precipitating, transformative event, I somehow left her love interest hanging on the invisible periphery. How could I have done this to dear Carlos? I was so wrapped up in poor Agave’s physical struggles, I neglected to include Carlos as part of her emotional struggle. I dropped the emotional thread, and the result was a disconnect that felt unbelievable. My critique circle united in a chorus of “Where’s Carlos?”

Of course, Carlos comes back into Agave’s world, but apparently not soon enough, emotionally. I’m grateful for this essential input and will reweave these scenes in my revision.

Pat on back: I reveled in the comments that I had captured satisfying detail in Agave’s transformation!

Thanks for sharing the journey. What have your revision struggles, joys, and aha! moments been?

Write on,

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

No class tonight; Kathie Giorgio’s Online Book Writing Workshop (www.allwriters.org/on_line_classes.asp#BOOK-WRITING WORKSHOP) meets again in one week. The class meets a total of twelve times, and each online meeting involves a discussion of the pages students have submitted in the previous week. The discussions are lively and bear fruitful critique, giving each of us a solid sense of what to work on, as well as the encouragement to forge ahead.

As an exercise, I wrote my last 15-page section in first-person, just to see how it would fly. Most of my classmates prefer my third-person pages, but my instructor and one other student like my first-person effort (there are six of us, total, plus Ms. Giorgio). Hmm… First-person gets tricky. I’ll need to think on it.

Also, my instructor’s favorite part of this recent submission was the beginning. I feel I’m eating enough humble pie here that I don’t mind sharing this jig-worthy POB (Pat on Back!) Ms. Giorgio was pleased enough to sprinkle “phenomenal” into her comments on that section! She felt there was so much that made the experience real in those paragraphs. Of course, that’s what I need to do consistently throughout.

I now divulge, that’s the part I spent the most time re-writing. The rest of the fifteen pages, I pretty much substituted “I” for “she” in my original draft, with a few other minor additions to fill in my character Agave’s internal world, and not very convincingly at that due to not giving it enough time. It was a bit slap-dash. Very basic lesson learned: more time spent in re-writing makes a difference. Better to learn this in a critique class than after submitting to an agent. Slow down, speedy. Rewriting is time well-spent. Duh. Moving on!

My novel is set in Mexico, and another lesson this week involves cultural representation. I don’t want my characters to be seen as representative of their culture; I want them to be experienced as individuals within a culture that influences them. They don’t behave “as a group.” They act the way they do based on their accumulated personal experiences, one factor of which is their cultural environment. One of my less sympathetic characters is even more unlikeable because she makes some uncompassionate statements to Agave early on. I received feedback that, if I don’t want her to be seen as a generalized representative of her culture, the reader needs more time to get to know her as an individual character, more interactions with her, before she makes these outrageous, callous statements.

Ms Giorgio says, “A novel is a process of developing layers. So you can breathe and take a little more time… A short story is like a surfer, riding a wave. A novel is like scuba-diving. Go deep.”

Putting on my oxygen tank…

Write on,

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

Wow! Here I am, rolling into week three of Kathie Giorgio’s 12-week Book-Writing Workshop (www.allwriters.org/on_line_classes.asp#BOOK-WRITING WORKSHOP).

The class has lit a fire under my chair to polish my weekly submission allotment of 15 pages, which we discuss and critique in an online chat each Monday night. No class tonight, due to Memorial Day.

At my last blog post, my big task after my first 15-page section was to solidify point-of-view (POV). I honed and reworked my second section. I re-read each sentence, pondering, am I walking in Agave’s shoes? (Agave is my main character.) Not just observing her walking in the shoes, but actually walking in them? Can I feel each step? Okay- not in a psychotic way. But you know what I mean! I can truly say I immersed myself in each page. The cliché “blood, sweat, and tears…” Yup! That was me. And if you had read my second section, you’d know I’m not kidding. Blood. Check! Tears. Check! Sweat. Mmmhmm!

So, I eagerly awaited the chat last Monday, perhaps even more nervous than I’d been the first Monday. I am wearing a very cheesy grin now when I tell you, according to Ms. Giorgio, I nailed POV! She didn’t have to take out her POV paddle once! Woo hoo!

But, do you hear that pop? That’s the sound of a momentarily inflated ego popping. I somehow neglected to illuminate the reader with a couple of entire scenes, crucial to the plot. Other scenes need to be filled in with more detail. Still other scenes were confusing in spots.

My ego, though, has matured. After it pops, I patch it and it re-inflates, determined, even if a bit nervous. I’ve also become skilled in chucking my harsh superego out the window during the writing process itself. This allows me to be wobbly, awkward, and very rough in my first drafts. Such freedom! I have faith in the revision process, a faith strengthened by the experience of this class.

I submitted my third section today. This time I rewrote my pages in first-person, as an exercise in POV. I’m not sure I would want to write the entire novel this way, but I would consider it. I look forward to class next Monday.

Write on,

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

I’m now in the second week of a twelve-week online Book-Writing Workshop (www.allwriters.org/on_line_classes.asp#BOOK-WRITING) with Kathie Giorgio, author of The Home for Wayward Clocks (Mainstreet Rag Publishing, 2010). I’m using the course to revise my novel-in-progress, with the working title of “Sisters of Aguamiel.”

Each student (so far, six are participating this session) may submit up to 15 double-spaced pages per week for critique from the other students, and also receives a line-by-line edit from Ms. Giorgio.

We gathered for our first online chat last Monday to discuss each student’s work. I must admit, my heart was pumping nervous adrenaline; would it be a shark fest? Or worse, a rose-colored glasses yawn? But I’m delighted to report the chat was a satisfying blend of on-point critique and positive strokes. The cherry on top was Ms. Giorgio’s thoughtful edit and critique.

Of course, I was thrilled to pieces with every crumb of “nicely done.” But I was also depending on input as to what isn’t working. So, when Ms. Giorgio wielded her POV (point of view) paddle, I got my fair share of whacks. What of my blog post title, you ask? Did I promptly treat myself to a new pair of Nikes to soothe the pain? Not a bad idea, but no.

I’m following my sage instructor’s advice and stepping into my main character Agave’s shoes. In order to nail POV, the reader has to feel like she’s right with your character, inside her skin, seeing and experiencing what she experiences, walking in her shoes. This sounds obvious, but for me, easier said than done. I’m writing in third person, but from Agave’s perspective. So the challenge is not to feel removed from Agave’s experience, while using the third person throughout.

To help get into her shoes, Ms. Giorgio suggested I try a section in first person, as Agave. I can switch it back to third person once I feel more in sync with her. I’ve achieved glimpses of resonant Agave-ness, but chunks of my first section lack the immediacy I’m striving for. So, my task is set: put on Agave’s shoes for POV immersion.

Have you struggled with point of view issues? Have you written a story or novel in first-person perspective? Perhaps since this is my first novel, the thought of that feels overwhelming to me, but I’m about to try rewriting my third 15-page section that way, as an exercise- I didn’t have time to completely rework my second class submission.

I’m looking forward to the class chat tonight, when we’ll discuss our second submission. More adventures in revision to come!

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

In the past few months, several people have contacted me with editing assignments. At first, I figured I’d just do a couple of editing projects for some extra cash. But I found I enjoyed the work and am now spreading the word that I’m available for more editing assignments. I’ve learned so much during the several projects I’ve completed; the experience has helped me grow as a writer and has sharpened my internal editor for my own work.

All writers need editors, as Claire Fadden mentioned in her November 16th 2010 post, “Every Writer- Even Jane Austen- Needs a Good Editor.” By the way, Claire was my first editor, and I will always be grateful to her for giving me such a nurturing and constructive start in the publishing world.

My husband, John, an advertising copywriter, and I request edits from each other regularly. It’s a gift when someone can read your work and see what’s needed to clarify and tighten each sentence.

I’m now a member of SD/PEN, San Diego Professional Editors Network. SD/PEN’s bimonthly newsletter, “Delete,” is abuzz with helpful information, as is www.sdpen.com. For all the latest on working with an editor, editing stages, and reference tools, visit http://www.sdpen.com/edit/editorial.php.

Maybe you smiled like I did at the savvy newsletter title, “Delete.” That word says more about the process of writing and editing than any other.

What do you find most helpful in editing your or others’ work?

Happy writing- and editing,

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

www.sandiegofreelancewriter.com


Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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