This weekend, a friend and fellow writer visited, and we discussed and worked on current manuscripts -- short stories and novels. Much progress was made.
I've learned that I can accomplish more with a one-on-one conversation than by trying to glean useful help from the writers group.
As I've mentioned in the past, I've ceased sharing my work with the group, and have recruited a small pool of readers whose comments have been far more valuable than those of the writers. If a new writer is out looking for guidance, I'd say he or she should latch on to one or two solid writers whose advice is trustworthy, but then collect a select ensemble of readers who can be relied upon to tell when a story works and when a story is best used as birdcage liner.
Sometimes, I'm the one who's so dissatisfied with the end result that I pick the work apart until it bleeds. The readers, though, may look at me like I'm crazy. Or maybe they'll split up, a few keeping me distracted while the others flank me and remove the red pen / computer keyboard / pair of scissors from my grasp.
Just as we should know what needs cutting, we also need to recognize when to leave well enough alone.
Back to this weekend's results: I scribbled out the basic plot arcs for Seasons 2 and 3 of Thieves' Honor, as well as what should happen in the next two episodes, the projected enders for Season 1. (For the uninitiated, Thieves' Honor is the space pirates serial I'm writing for Ray Gun Revival.) This method of writing -- one episode a/k/a chapter at a time -- has been a great experience. I'm not allowed to sweat the future; I just need to produce the next episode.
Yeah, there is a future to consider, because what I write now will affect what happens later in the story, but whatever corners I write myself into, I must also write myself out of, and that means no whining, and no quitting. I don't get to second-guess myself too much, or to keep talking about some nebulous someday when the (cough, cough, ahem) masterpiece is complete. Nope. Butt must meet chair, and work must be done.
I cringe to recall what a whiny "artiste" I was when starting my first novel. Everything had to be perfect. When others told me to "just write," I considered them unimaginative cretins who could not possibly understand the cerebral power one must employ in order to produce high art.
Somewhere along the plodding journey, I fell out of love with my own words and gained a greater appreciation for the overall story, and worked to achieve THAT goal: the one of telling a story someone wanted to read.
I don't know how well I'm doing now, but that's almost not the point. Any craftsman should strive to do better. Always improve the craft.
To that end, I'm planning big things for upcoming TH episodes. Stay tuned for more adventures of the crew of the Martina Vega.