Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Spirit Guides

Young Woman in 17th Century Russian Costume,
Konstantine Makovsky ( 1839-1915),
oil on canvas.

Sometimes, writing is like a seance.

I planned to do a post on adverbs, about my irritation with the advice that adverbs must be hunted down like minor demons and eradicated.

Natasha and WrittenWyrdd ( see sidebar) knocked the table first.

Then Charles posted about Writer's Groups. Made me wonder if we were channelling the same spirit guides.

I've intended to mention this apport on the subject of Writing Circles for some time.

Though the blog appears to be defunct, the comments on mentorship and dependency make interesting ectoplasm.

Writing circles may be beneficial to many, as long as they act as a support system, not a life-support system...
Feedback is good, but if you cannot write a story without your whole group giving you feedback or marks for it, then when the group disappears you're going to be in deep trouble...

She (?) also considers writing prompts - apparently a mainstay of some circles - of dubious value, conducive to the same dependency, and mainly useful for the beginner.

Pimp Report: Several Marva Dasef stories will apear in Weirdly. Her website may be found here.


Angie said...

I've seen some groups where the main focus was prompts [nod] and I've never felt a pull to join that sort of grop. I mean, prompts can be cool and some of my best stories (including the I just placed with Torquere) have come from prompts, but I prefer to get mine from writing fests, where you can generally skim the list and find one which inspires you. It's sort of like trolling the publisher sites looking for theme anthologies -- sometimes the description of the theme spawns a story idea. Same sort of thing.

I don't want to be obligated to write to some random prompt every week or whatever, though. I get enough real story ideas without needing to expend writing time forcing myself to write on a theme or topic which hasn't inspired me. Especially when they use prompts like "blue" or "up" or a line from some song I've never heard of. Umm, yeah. No thanks. [wry smile]


Bernita said...

Right, on all counts, Angie.
I want to spend my writing time on inspiration, not obligation - publisher's deadlines excepted.
I didn't realize that some prompts were as basic as you describe - those sound very 101. A picture, now, at least gives scope.

Sam said...

I don't think adverbs should be eradicated - but definitely weeded out.
As Mark Twain said, the road to hell is paved with adverbs.
He did say it. Honest.

Jaye Wells said...

I'll respond with my favorite writing quote ever:

"Anyone who tells you their way is the right way or there is only one way to write--tell them to f*** off."
-Nora Roberts

I think this just about covers both adverbs and writing groups.

writtenwyrdd said...

I also posted on adverbs (advocating you CAN use them, shut up nay sayers) on the 8th.

StarvingWriteNow said...

I feel sorry for adverbs. They're like the redheaded stepchild of the Grammar Family.

Granted, you can't use the sledgehammer approach, but a sprinkling is nice.

(she said concisely/quietly/sweetly...)

Bernita said...

Weeding is fine, Sam - total genocide is not.

Read that too, Jaye...with exquisite pleasure.
Absolutely finest kind.

Bernita said...

Sorry, Written, omission of your contribution to the seance was unintentional.
Thank you for the link to your post.

Right, Starving. Adverbs contribute to concise, as well as nuance which might not be achieved otherwise.

writtenwyrdd said...

Omission of my contribution? Glad to know it's useful, but figured you hadn't seen it. The fellow I quoted was the important bit.

Charles Gramlich said...

I actually have always found writing prompts rather useless for me. I can generate my own so easily that I rather hate having them suggested to me by others. It's sort of like when I was young and was told what to read. I didn't care for that either.

Bernita said...

Omission inexcusable, Written. I do check your blog every day.Don't know how I came to miss it.

Probably helpful for beginners, Charles, and probably fun for those who want to play, but I think you're well past needing the nudge.

Kate Thornton said...

I like the idea that "synergy" might not just be some outdated psychobabble after all.

I like writing prompts if I am writing a flash for a specific feature - a photo or word can be good direction for the 100 words which may otherwise bloat up into the 500 word realm of fantasy.

Adverbs can be your friends, just like those deeply flawed personalities you can't stand in person but are only too happy to write about. Just don't let them take over...they do it badly.

Scott said...

I was going to a bi-weekly group where just three of use would read our work. I had just reached the point where I needed to outline and do less writing when we took a hiatus, which turned out to be, so far, permanent. It was just what I needed in the beginning, but now I've gotten so much feedback and instruction that I now am really doing it on my own. When I get back to writing a lot, I think it would be useful, but not necessary. Like any drug, you can build a dependency, or it can be just what the doctor ordered when taken in the recommended dose.

As for adverbs, why don't you take a crack at that post anyway. I'd love to read your thoughts. I was much more strict about adverbs than I am today. I've been reading with a critical eye since I've been studying the craft, and there are some respected authors that use adverbs with some frequency. I find that there is no rule that can't be broken. There are plenty of talented writers I'm sure that don't use them at all that live on in the slush piles at publishing houses, and other not-so-gifted writers that are enjoying second and third printings.

spyscribbler said...

But you woulda said it better!

The more I look around, the more I realize my writing career has been pretty darn bizarre from the beginning. I will be ever thankful that I spent the first five years writing in a vacuum.

I could never have developed my own voice in a writing group. I'm too much a people-pleaser. I gotta write alone. Just thinking of my readers is enough weight on my shoulders, LOL.

Zany Mom said...

I can't use writing prompts. My stories have to come from my own inspiration. I can't see the point of writing just for exercise. Now maybe if I'm having writer's block or something it might help jump start the creative juices, but just to do a prompt a week or month for a writing group isn't my thing.

As for crits, I take those from those I trust. While it might be nice to have a cheering section, so far I haven't found a writer's group that's truly helpful. I know terrific writers are out there, but not in any groups I've visited.

Bernita said...

There's probably one or more subcutaneous items, maybe reached by different paths and difficult after time to identify, that triggered the same impulse in us, Kate.

I tend to think of adverbs as spice - useful for flavour.

Bernita said...

Writing groups aren't for all people all the time. At some stages they can be genuinely helpful.

The thing is, Scott, the no-adverbs rule is not a rule, thought it's sometimes trotted out as such. It probably began as exasperation aimed that those writers who use adverbs indiscriminately to shore up weak verbs, rather than find strong ones; or those uncertain writers who are afraid the reader just won't "get it" unless every dialogue tag has a helper.

Not at all, Natasha!
The main point is to liberate the poor little fellows and let them range free.
And that's a good point. Most social groups, no matter how well intentioned, effect a degree of group-think.

Zany, I have learned a tremendous amount just by reading blogs.

The Anti-Wife said...

I get so caught up in my own stories sometimes that a writing prompt helps take me away and give me a needed break. I don't do them often, but they can be fun.

What's an adverb? As a writer I'm not supposed to know! That's what they said!

Bernita said...

"writing prompt helps take me away and give me a needed break."
A good way to use them, AW.
Who are "they?"

Zany Mom said...

The third Harry Potter book is a great example of why you shouldn't use adverbs, LOL.

I do love and use adverbs. The key is only when necessary.

Jon M said...

I've been looking at a local writing circle recently but haven't dared to dip my toe in. I have had fellow-bloggers critique my work which was useful but I'm still uncertain about local writer's circles.

Gabriele C. said...

I had an online crit circle for a while which really helped, and I'm still a semi-regular member of the FM writers' chat. But then, I'm a stubborn girl who never listens to others if she doesn't want. :)

So yes, support works for me if carefully picked.

Scott from Oregon said...

Writer's "group" sounds like an oxymoron to me.

Reader's group?

ScaramoucheX said...

Bernita, I am so disappointed your first line did not win Nathan's contest. I thought it excellent, and very desrving of at least some recognition...there are Philistines everywhere!

Bernita said...

Joining a group is not a contract-for-life, Jon. If you try them out and they don't fit your needs...

Feed back can be trmendously valuable, I agree, Gabriele. All depends on the quality of it.

Scott, I get a kick out of the term "critters."

Thank you, ScaramoucheX.
Very nice of you to say so.

Those lines acquired a couple of write-in votes - which astonished me.
After all, he had close to 500 entries and most were excellent, with little to choose between them in terms of quality.
So many were so good that the contest clearly illustrates that choice, in the final accounting, comes down to taste.
Nathan did say that many of the write-ins made the short list, so I can fondly imagine - however incorrectly - I was included in that list.

Bernita said...

Dammit. That should have read "among them."