A Writers’ Group- Twenty in Twenty

I’ve finally dealt with the reality that I will not be the next Margaret Atwood. It hasn’t discouraged me from writing but what might have was the complete lack of publication despite my several stories and a failed romance novel. I blame my astrological sign for my enthusiasm about new projects and my equal reluctance to do the work to make them worthwhile.

That’s where my writers’ group emerges as the hero. Writing can be a pretty lonely pastime but when there’s an discerning audience to share a piece with, the sting of rejection isn’t as sharp. Learning to hear and accept that the words didn’t drip with golden elegance from your fingertips is hard. Those adverbs you love? They are a sure sign of flabby writing. Slipping between present and past tense? It isn’t done. Hard lessons.

Your eloquent prose has only confused the reader. Reading a new bit of writing to the group can be humiliating. Out loud, in your own voice, the errors jump off the page. Then improvements can begin.

The great thing about the writers I’ve met through the years and through this small town writing group is their support and enthusiasm. I met a writer twenty years ago and our mutual interest led to a close and deep friendship. A couple of the writers are much younger but the problems of writing and finding time is the same. I value their opinions and their friendship.

We have had male writers join until life got in the way. For twenty years one other writer and I have maintained the group in its various incarnations. On Feb. 20, 2020, we are celebrating with a self-led workshop and a celebratory lunch.

The things I have published, have been improved and critiqued by the group. Different eyes on your work makes you aware of its weakness and its strength. If you can find a group of supportive, sharp-eyed writers like I have, don’t let them go.

Before I end this. One more thing is off my bucket list. As a retired teacher who had dabbled in writing for years, when the Alberta Retired Teachers announced their writing contest, I was sure I was a shoe-in. A humbling experience awaited. Despite entering each year, the best I achieved was an honourable mention. I was ready to give up but last year I tried one more time. With help from the group, I won one of the categories. Not a threat to Margaret Atwood, but it made me happy.

A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay

In his latest thriller, Linwood Barclay, has fashioned a protagonist who, until he stops to help a friend from work, has been leading a blameless ordinary life. He’s a college professor, not at Yale or Harvard; but still a responsible and good position. Then one night  on his way home he stops his car to help a colleague and it all goes south. His fellow professor, a known lady killer, has actually killed two women by slitting their throats. Our protagonist Paul Davis catches him trying to dispose of their bodies.

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His friend has already murdered twice and comes for Paul with the shovel he has to bury the women. Eight months later, where the novel really begins, Paul Davis is alive but in recovery from the blow to the head. He has suffered a possible brain injury and is dealing with the aftermath of the vicious attack. Nightmares plague him and although his therapist Anna White, is helpful, he has not been able to return to work.

Then he starts to hear a typewriter at night when he and his wife and asleep. His colleague had made his female victims write apologies on a typewriter before he murder them. His wife has given him an old Underwood as a gift, something for his “think tank” aka den. Odd events keep turning up and Paul is driven to create bizarre theories to explain them. At last he doubts his own sanity.

More than this, would give away the plot which has plenty of twists, turns, and red herrings. After all, that’s what makes a thriller, well, thrilling. A Noise Downstairs provides the great entertainment, I’ve come to expect from Linwood Barclay, a New York Times bestselling Canadian author.

Nanowrimo- National Novel Writing Month

Fifty thousand words in 30 days. Since 1999, the first year of Nano, would-be novelists have accepted the challenge of writing a novel in November. Starting at midnight, 12:01 Nov. 1-midnight Nov. 30, authors set the goal of writing every day to create a minimum of 1, 667 words, and by doing so accumulate a 50,000 word novel.

So- it’s 2018 and I’m going to give it another try. My novel is one that I started and let dwindle to nothing last year (not a Nano novel.) I have thought about it and still like the story but not the way I had written it so Nano 2018 is a total re-boot, rewrite.

How am I doing? 1,831 words as of 8:30 AM yesterday. That made me behind 3,169 words already. Not an auspicious start. For me, working full time (and only for a month) interfered. I’m not used to regular work hours and I was tired. It’s an excuse, not a reason because people with full-time jobs, children, and way more responsibilities than I have, accomplish it. So I’m going with the idea, that I’ve made a beginning and I have “won” Nano once in 2016. Winning means I wrote 50,000 words. I had tried in 2013 and 2015. Those efforts stalled around the 25,000 word count.

Nano Novels have been traditionally published and some have become best sellers. I assume that it wasn’t without more hard work and a lot of editing. But as the saying goes, it’s impossible to edit something that doesn’t exist.

Participating in Nano can be a bit of fun and a lot of motivation. Updating your word count each day shows your progress and the numbers are translated to a graph. There a forums to join, write-ins (real and virtual), writing buddies and more.

If you’ve ever considered writing a book, this is one way to dive in.

Good Luck.

night-circus
Erin Morgenstern started The Night Circus in Nano and completed it over another two.