I’ve been thinking about my critique group and how it fits into my writing lately. Before I post about some of that though, I thought it would be helpful to have some background on the group I’m a part of. Please keep in mind I am far from an expert in critiquing. A few things of note:
- This is the only group I’ve been a part of, and the only one I’ve started.
- Everyone in this group had met in real life prior to starting the group.
- We meet in person, virtually, or a mix of both once per month.
Last January my friend Cate and I set out to start a critique group. We had both hit the point in our writing where we knew it was time to share, but we weren’t sure of the best way to do that. After reviewing our options, we decided starting our own critique group made the most sense. When we sent out the invitation for people to join our group, we were aiming for a group of four to six people including ourselves.
The group started with five people, but we currently have only three members. We’d love another member or two, but we are an acquired taste in some ways, and I think having now been working together for a while it’s harder to bring in another person.
When we started the group we were very deliberate in setting the tone, structure, and expectations. We talked about what people wanted to get out of the group, and how much time people had to devote to the group. We laid out the ground rules and expectations for members. This really helped when we were getting started and means that going forward we have a plan in place. A few things we discussed/laid out included:
- How long will submissions be, and what is the max number of submissions the group can handle per month?
- When will we submit, how often will we meet, and how will we meet (in person or virtual)?
- What types of writing can be submitted (age and genre), and is there anything someone is not comfortable reviewing?
- What are our guidelines when doing the critique, and how are we sharing our comments with the writer?
- How will we handle people who ask to join, or asking people to join?
Are you part of a critique group? What are some of the ground rules your group follows?
On Monday I’ll post a full tally for my July goals, but today I want to focus on how I did on Camp NaNoWriMo.
I surprised myself. I wasn’t too worried about finishing (my goal was just over 10k). The surprised was how many words I ended up writing in July. I finished my NaNo goal on July 30th with 30 words to spare. But that wasn’t my only project for the month. On the 16th I was hit with a sudden, all consuming, NEED to work on a fanfic I hadn’t thought about in over five years.
I was on track for NaNo, so I decided what the heck. With half my nano words written I only needed three regular nano days to finish. Nothing to worry about, so I started writing… and writing … and writing. Over five days I wrote 20k on the fanfic project! It was fun and carefree writing, which in my opinion is the most freeing. This isn’t a story I’m likely to share with anyone. It won’t go to my critique group, and I won’t share it with family or friends. It was a story I wrote for myself. That let me take the long road, and several detours. In the end I got when I needed to be, but the journey was wonderful and far from a straight line.
Here is my word chart for the month. The blue was my NaNo project. It actually has a fairly consistent writing pattern through the month. A few days a week I wrote between 500-1500 words. It looks how I expected knowing what the rest of my month was like. The red is the unexpected project that took over my writing for the middle of the month. One day I wrote over 6000 words. It is my first >6k day in over a year I think. Overall I’m very happy with how camp went, and even more pleased that I found pleasure in writing for the first time in a while.
Did you participate in camp? Did you meet your goal?
Saturday night I went out with some of my favourite writers for some writing, dinner, and then dessert. When all was said and done, I had a leftover samosa, some curry and rice, and half a piece of cheesecake. Sunday I had the samosa for breakfast before dashing out for errands. I ate the curry and rice as a late lunch while I made cupcakes (my son has to bring his own cake to parties). Then after the birthday party I made myself risotto. I of course followed the risotto with the leftover cheesecake.
I haven’t been eating as well as I should lately. It’s been a busy year, with a few big changes. Having a kid also means I worry about what I’m feeding him first, and me second. Which can mean I remember to pack him a lunch, but forget to pack one for myself. I make sure he eats his breakfast, but am running too late to eat one myself. Getting three good meals yesterday reminded me of how much better I function with good fuel.
When I’m active I remember to eat. You have to fuel your body to be able to run, climb, skip, or hula hoop. My ankle has been bothering me, so I haven’t been doing as much as usual. I guess without the activity my brain forgot that good fuel doesn’t just help with active pursuits, it helps creative ones as well. My thought process is better when I eat at good intervals, and I get more done when I eat a more balanced diet.
Hopefully this reminder reminds me to feed myself and my creativity over the summer. I have so many things I want to accomplish, and I can’t do any of them without fuel.
For the last two weeks I haven’t had much time to write. I promised my son I would finish his digger quilt this month, and I’ve made amazing progress on it, but that has meant sacrificing my writing time. If I don’t start writing more I’m not going to make my goal of writing eight times this month.
Writing more sounds great, but I also have the small problem of where to write. Currently I write on the couch, or the dinning room table. That can mean a lot of distractions from what I should be working on. I recently ordered a new Skarsta desk from Ikea to use in the room that used to be our ‘study’. Since my son was born, the ‘study’ has turned into a ‘I don’t know what to do with this thing’ storage space. It’s cluttered and full of stuff that doesn’t need to be there. Stuff that may not need to be in the house at all. Not idea for a space that needs to function as a sewing space, writing space, and relaxing space. A tall order!
Now that my desk has arrived I need to clear enough space to set it up. Nothing like a deadline to force you along a path. I plan to have the new desk set up before the end of the weekend. That means getting enough stuff out of the study to have enough room not only for the desk, but for me to be able to use the desk. I both look forward to and dread the amount of work that will be involved in such a simple task. Luckily my husband made some good progress on the room about a month ago before bringing company into the house.
Do you have a dedicated writing space? How do you make space for your hobbies? Does your writing space double as space for anything else?
Finding balance is always a struggle. Lately it has meant constant small adjustments to both expectation and routine. Things have been going well, but May is a busy time. My son’s birthday was yesterday, Mother’s day and my Mom’s birthday are coming up, I’m deep cleaning the house, and I’m working out again.
With so many things vying for my attention I’ve had to switch up how I fit everything in. The switch from full to part time has had a positive impact on most areas of my life, but, surprisingly, it’s hard to find time to workout and get some personal projects done. I love the extra time with my son, but I need time for me as well.
Last week I decided I needed to stop dragging my feet and find a way to make getting exercise a priority. I’d been part time for almost four months, it was past time to fit it in. I’m back to skipping (yes, I jump rope for exercise) because it’s easy, fast, can be done at home in the limited time, and I can layout my stuff the night before. With summer around the corner I’ll also be hooping (yes, I’m a kid and also enjoy hula hooping 😉 ) regularly in the backyard.
With that taken care of it’s time to figure out how to fit both writing and sewing into my life. I have other things I like to do, but these are the two things I
want need to do regularly. I’ve been pretty good at sticking to my new Monday and Thursday writing schedule, but sewing hasn’t been as productive. For this month I’m taking things one day at a time. Today my goals are: skip, wash the kitchen floor, pin my son’s quilt, and write for at least an hour.
Do you manage to fit everything in? Or are you like me and always wishing for a few extra hours a day?
Getting back on track this month took longer then I expected. On the 11th, when I gave my last update, I was still four days behind. I managed a double day that night, the 12th, and the 13th. I was in great shape to catch up on the 14th. Except that isn’t what happened.
I didn’t actually manage to catch up until the 16th. Not writing on the 15th certainly didn’t help, but I had other things that needed to get done. The whole point of setting a low goal this month was that I wouldn’t have to write everyday. The story is slower going than I expected though, and writing even a thousand words often takes twice as long as it usually does during NaNoWriMo. Once I get going, I sometimes manage to zoom through an extra 500 hundred words in the blink of an eye.
On the 17th I prove that point by writing triple my one day word count. That sounds amazing right? Except that I took the next two nights off. It didn’t put me behind, but it took away that great buffer of words I had. When I started writing yesterday I was on track, but needed a solid day of writing to stay there. I manage to get a day and a half of words. If I can do that again today, I’ll be happy. It would be nice to have a bit of a buffer again.
At this point I know I can win. As long as I keep hitting the keyboard, and don’t give up, I WILL win Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s exciting since it’s my first Camp win, but I feel like I’ve worked harder for it than I have my last several NaNos even though the word count is so much lower. At this point I just need to get through the words and win, so I can figure out what I’m submitting to my critique group in far too short a time.
How is your Camp NaNoWriMo going this year? Will you be joining me in crossing that finish line?
I would love to be able to call this post something like “How to handle stress”, or “How to find the time for writing during a stressful time”, but I haven’t figured either of those things out yet.
I’m not too bad at handling stress at work. I find solutions, have no problem doing my part for a team, and enjoy the relief when it is all over. Stress at home is another matter completely. Until I had a child, stress at home was fairly rare. There was some stress when I was planing my wedding, but it was short lived. There was a bit of stress when we bought our first house, but my husband and I were confident in our decision and I’m weird and ENJOY packing.
When my son started school he had trouble. A lot of trouble. To say it wasn’t an easy ride is a huge understatement. Things are going better this year, but there are still plenty of bumps in the road. A lot of meetings, juggling, and a constant adjustment of schedules and expectations. I never thought of people who can drop their kids off at school in the morning and not worry about them until pick up as lucky, but those people are lucky. They are so very lucky. I’m sure they have other bumps and problems, but I envy them the ease of school.
I have noticed that when I get stressed I retreat into TV. Years ago I used to retreat into books or TV, but lately I find when I am truly at the end of my rope I need to veg and just watch the action. Writing takes monumental effort. It isn’t just writing the words that can be hard in these times, but finding the ideas to write about.
This month we hit another bump in the road. I stopped writing for a few days, but I managed to get back on the horse. I guess that new skirt reward is helping! I had my biggest writing day of the month during what I hope is one of the most stressful weeks of the month. Maybe the secret is to just do it anyway. Even when you don’t want to, when it is hard, and when the words are going to be crap. I can always edit them later right?
For me, it is much easier to keep a pattern once it is established, than to start a new pattern. A perfect example is my recent sewing. Earlier this month I hooked up my sewing machine for the first time in months. Over the course of the day I quilted half of a large lap quilt. That night I packed up my sewing machine so we could eat on the dinning room table the next day.
On Sunday I remembered that I still hadn’t sewn a bag for a small toy set my son has. I pulled out the sewing machine and made a zippered pouch to keep his set together. I started and finished a project I had been putting off for months in a few hours, and that was with some ‘help’ from my son. I have no doubt that if I hadn’t been sewing on Friday I wouldn’t have end up sewing on Sunday. I had started a pattern and it was easy to continue it. (Since then I have also completed a small project for my husband)
What does this have to do with writing? Well, I have been having trouble finding the time to write for about a month. However, after thinking about my recent sewing I am starting to think the problem isn’t finding the time to write, but finding the time to start writing. For the next month I am not going to think about how I am going to fit in writing each and every day or even three times a week. Instead I am going to think about when I can write next. I’m going to take it one step at a time as they say.
How often do you write? Do you find it easy to find the time, or is it something your struggle with regularly?
Sometimes things don’t go as planned. I had great intentions of blogging for the month of February, but then life got in the way.
I underestimated how much effort it would take to get ready for our vacation in the middle of the month. The laundry, planning, a bit of shopping, and disruptions due to a snow storm all added up to a much busier pre-vacation week then planned. I managed all the required stuff, but the want to do stuff just didn’t happen. As much as I enjoy posting, it’s a want not a need. I had to make time for the stuff I couldn’t leave until later. That meant the boring planning stuff, not the fun writing stuff.
Last week I was on the vacation I had spent that time prepping for. I promised myself I would take the week off from everything ‘work’ related. Writing, blogging, and even crafting are all work related. They are the fun side of work, but family time and lots of sun were far more important than anything else. The vacation was lovely, and well worth the wait and preparations.
Now I am home, and it’s back to the real world. I will be back to posting regularly on Mondays and Fridays.See you after the weekend!
It’s good to be back.
I’m still trying to find the right way to fit a blog into my life. I want to blog because it forces me to write and organize my thoughts, but I need to have a schedule that doesn’t overwhelm or take too much time away from my other hobbies (writing non blog stuff and sewing).
In an attempt to find the right balance I’m changing up my posting schedule again. I liked posting every three days, but it quickly got to the point where I had trouble remembering if it was a posting day or not. Instead I’m switching to a Monday and Friday schedule with bi-weekly Wednesdays. This should keep my number of posts per month the same, but be much easier to remember.
The Bi-Weekly Wednesday posts will be my 500 words posts. I really like the idea of these posts being on a easy to follow schedule. Every second Friday will be a recommendation post. The rest will be the usual random stuff my mind is churning over and updates on how my writing is going. I hope to keep to this schedule for a lot longer than two months. Time will tell!