Writers groups

Last night, I went to the local fantasy and sci fi writers group’s first session of the year. They seem like a great bunch of people, keen to chat about what they know about the craft and where they’re at with their own projects. That being said, I left the session feeling frustrated rather than inspired.

This surprises me, because there is nothing better than being around like-minded people, as I discovered with my beloved Melbourne writers group, whom I’m keeping in touch with via skype.

It’s led me to realise that I need not just a writers group that discusses the craft of writing, but a critique group that evaluates each other’s work and holds them accountable. I also enjoy structure, in that the session is planned out with specific activities that run for a controlled amount of time, plus someone who monitors the meeting and ensures that everyone gets their fair share of air time.

I think there are certain things that can destroy a writers group – members who want different things, an overbearing attendee who hijacks the proceedings, disrespect towards the work of other people in the group, and an inability to reel in the tangents that inevitably happen in a group of passionate writers.

I’ll give this group another shot. It’s always difficult when joining an established writers group, and like I said, these people are good folk.

No doubt I’ll let you know how it all pans out.

Don’t know what you’ve got…

Sheldon the salty sea dog

With only a few short days left until I load up the dog and start the 2500km drive north, I’ve come to realise that leaving my home city is a gift. I visit my regular haunts with a sort of fond regret, thinking, ‘This is the last time I will visit this place, see this person, eat this food…’

It has made me notice the cobweb on the window of my favourite café, the laugh of the cashier at the local supermarket and the smell of salt water rolling off the bay. It’s showing up in my writing, too, with my characters interacting more thoroughly with their surroundings. I’m concentrating on minute, sensory details, and so the scenes are better because of it.

Our everyday activities provide rich fodder for our writing. Although it took my leaving to appreciate this, I’m thankful for the reminder.

Goals vs Plans

Halfway into my goal of writing 20,000 words by the end of the year, I have to admit that I am on track only because I’ve had one stellar day of writing. I’ve had two days where I didn’t write at all, and another day where the writing was so stilted that I wrote over it the next day. Instead of feeling pumped by my self-imposed ten day challenge, I’m left feeling a bit directionless. Why?

This morning I realised the obvious—a goal without a plan is like putting a wish in a bottle, tossing it into the ocean and expecting the universe to provide. Which of course it doesn’t.

So for the remaining days of December, I’m giving the time-honoured SMART system a shot. Each day is planned out with specific times allocated for writing. Word and scene targets have been set, as well as contingencies for if I go below or beyond those targets. I’m feeling committed to the plan, and the excitement of having a big finish to 2014 is back.

I have a busy day today, so I’d best get cracking.

Ending the year on a high

Kelly's a lefty

I’ll point out the obvious by saying the festive season is full of distractions. It’s a time when most things are set aside for family, friends and food. It’s a great time of year but when your goal is to be a published writer, putting your work on hold is a tough ask.

Despite a busy year of writing, I am approaching the end of 2014 with a bit of anxiety. Not because I haven’t done enough; it’s because I fear the break in momentum will result in a full scale cessation of writing. It’s happened before. There have been times when I haven’t written a word for nigh on eight months. I have fair reason to be worried.

That’s why, with ten days left in 2014, I’ve decided to see out the year by writing 20,000 words. That’s a measly 2,000 words a day. Sounds doable. In truth, it feels like a big task with all of the holiday activities going on in the background (did I mention I’m also currently packing up my house for the move to Queensland?).

Nonetheless, committing to a short, time-specific goal feels like a crucial step for me. What better way to see in the new year than to see out the old with an explosion of words on the page? I’ll let you know how I go.

How will you see out 2014?