Friday, December 30, 2011

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Student

I dropped out of my writers' critique group; last week's holiday party was my last meeting with them.

I'm reflecting on this as 2011 closes because it's symbolic of what I suspect will be a number of changes, some exciting and some just sad, that come with the new year.

In the case of the writers' critique group, it seemed pretty obvious to me that it wasn't going to go well if I continued to attend meetings while I was working on my MFA program. And I can see already that my instincts were right. Even doing my homework, reading books about writing, makes me want to rave about what I'm learning to the other writers.

For so many reasons, that would be highly annoying. I'd be lecturing them--which they neither need nor asked for--and I'd be suggesting that I now know something they need to know--which is almost certainly not true.

Of course, I considered the alternative, namely to attend the meetings but not say anything. Ugh. I love these people, but not enough that I could glue my lips together, sit on my hands, and smile like a Sock Monkey for two hours.

So starting next week, working with a critique group will be confined to ten days in January and ten days in July. I'll have a mentor/instructor for the months in-between, someone I'll email pages of my WIP(s) and wait for comments and suggestions.

In other words, I'll be home, working on my own to learn everything I can learn so that my writing improves. Writing is already a solitary occupation; I'm about to make my education as a writer solitary for 11 months of the year.

It's worth it, and I'm seeing that already, even before the course has officially begun. One of my assigned texts is Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. It's about screenwriting, which I don't do, but it's really about what makes stories work. And sure enough, it showed me something that's (possibly) missing from Blackjack & Moonlight. Luckily, I'd submitted an excerpt from B & M for one of my Stonecoast workshops, and luckily that workshop is being run by the instructor who'd assigned Save the Cat! for a presentation she's doing on story structure. So I have hope that she and my fellow students can tell me what I need to do to add the missing element.

It's just that I want to natter on about this now. It's a bit like that boor in The Graduate: "Just one word...Plastics," only in my case the word is "Primal." But I'll spare you the details.

It's going to be a new year, that's for sure. I'll still post here as I think about romances and romance fiction. I'll just try hard not to post hectoring screeds about writing technique.

Because you don't need that.


  1. I'm looking forward to hearing what you learn. :) It sounds like a great adventure, and it'll be fun to accompany you on it vicariously. Thanks for sharing all the wonderful insights!

  2. I told my dh that your stories sound like "The Good Wife" screenwriters should be beating a path to your door. Smart & literate and entertaining ... always a winning formula. Janet

  3. I don't mind hearing about what you're learning. :) It sounds like an awesome program!


Hi. This is a moribund blog, so it gets spammed from time to time. Please feel free to comment, but know that your comment may take a few hours to appear simply as a result of the spam blocking in place.