coming up to speed

On Thursday I went to my first local writer’s meet up.

This is different from my occasional Sunday writing get-togethers with friends, where the goal is simply to write. The  members of this group largely work alone but meet bi-monthly to critique each other’s work and do writing prompts.

It was interesting, but I felt inadequate to the task. I’ve got a bit of a learning curve if I want to offer decent beta reading, or learn from any criticism I receive:

1) I need to get familiar with the proper names for different parts of language. I know when something feels “off” to me in a reading: the pace is too fast, or it feels repetitive, but I don’t have the vocabulary to adequately explain what I mean. Until I understand these my critiques will be vague at best. Not sure where to learn this as I’m not even sure what to plug into Google: “parts of language” finds more about speech than writing. Work in progress.

2) I need to learn proofreader’s marks. Some of the members provide their reviews as marked-up printouts, and these aren’t useful to me if I don’t know what they mean.

3) Better reading aloud. I put as much expression as I could into the small bit I read but self-consciousness and unfamiliarity with the text gets in the way. I’m referring to Mary Robinette Kowal‘s tips for reading aloud videos (part 1, part 2) but I suspect mastering this will come down to practice. I may have to face my speaking in public phobia sooner rather than later (shudder).

4) Formatting. Evidently some publishers won’t even look at a manuscript that isn’t in the preferred justified alignment, .5″ paragraph indent format. I’m new enough to the writing party that I can’t judge anecdote from evidence, but reformatting is simple so I’m putting this in my “can’t hurt, might help” box.

The writing prompt was fun: start a story, after a set time pass your paper to the person on your right so they can continue. It’s like the RPGs I used to play in, where everyone had permission to write everyone else’s character and take them in places I couldn’t imagine.

I think I will be attending this meet up again as time permits, but only if I can be of some use to the other members.

 

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3 thoughts on “coming up to speed

  1. dustdaughter says:

    Sounds like a great way to stretch your writerly muscles so to speak, as well as the social ones!

    Here are a couple more links on proofreader’s marks. They seem to look different depending on who’s making the marks… which is less than helpful.

    http://www.eeicom.com/eei-media-services/media-services/proofreader-marks/

    http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_proof.html

    You’re doing a great job of getting out there and taking the steps necessary to improve your writing (which is pretty damn good already). Brava!

  2. A. Thurman says:

    Thanks for the tips!

    A brief whip around the internet suggests that the Chicago Manual of Style is the standard for fiction (http://freelancewrite.about.com/od/mechanicsofwriting/a/styleguides.htm), and their directions seem the clearest. Now I just need to figure out the correct parts of sentences etc. so I know WHERE to use them.

    Getting out there is not natural to me – I do have to remember that while the writing is a solitary activity, at some point I do have to expose my writing to other people for valuable feedback.

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