What Makes A Great Writing Partner?

I’ll admit to the world:  I love my writing partner, Catherine.

Weekly we’ll meet at Catherine’s house for an hour and a half, drink Diet Dr. Pepper (cures everything) and talk writing. There’s a spot on her porch we use.  It’s a large table in the corner with bird feeders outside the window, and just few enough birds flying around to not distract our focus. She’s working on a couple of fantastic projects. I love the way she thinks and writes. Besides her career teaching, she’d spent years at a newspaper and in our meetings cuts words like a seamstress with thread. I’ve quickly learned to cut empty adjectives, phrases that add nothing to the storyline, and entire irrelevant paragraphs.  It’s been valuable.  What do I like?  It might surprise you:

1) She thinks differently than I do.  Too many writers I talk to want a group with people “like them.”  Knowing a wide audience will read my work, I want a strong opinion that counters mine. I’m looking for insights I can’t add.

2) She’s committed to writing. Catherine clearly puts care into her work and brings valuable writing to the table. I learn as much reading her writing as I do from her criticism of mine.

3) She’s a giver. She’s always insisting we look at my work first. I’ve had to beat her to the punch a few times, demanding we start with her story, because I get the feeling each week that she’d be willing to forget her own work and focus on mine. That helps me remember to be a giver also, creating a nice environment.

4) She’s honest. After a few meetings, once we were clearly comfortable around each other, she cut her time trying to be “nice” to me and focused on areas to improve. That doesn’t mean she beats me up all meeting.  She’ll point out improvements and areas she likes, but she doesn’t need to spend time convincing me I’m a decent author.

I know I’m forgetting fifteen things I enjoy about working with Catherine, but if you can find those four, you’ll be on the right track.  A friend was looking for a writing group and I stupidly assumed that they’re all similar to mine. Sadly, his suffered from many problems that I won’t get into here. As he relayed his horrific experience, I realized how lucky I am. 

Thanks, Catherine!

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Kick-Ass

I’ve been  following Janet Evanovich’s advice in How I Write, taking a year (as she did) to read books and watch as many films as possible.  Her goal in this exercise is to get a sense of story, pacing, character, plot, what works and doesn’t, and to hear enough voices to be able to focus a new writer on those themes they find most interesting.  She took the whole year off.  That’s not possible for me, so I’m writing much of each day, then watching at least three movies weekly and reading at least one chapter per day of a book.  Why am I telling you this?  I just saw Kick-Ass this week, and it, well, kicked ass.

I won’t rehash the story, and will agree with critics who write that to some degree, this is a film whose audience isn’t old enough to watch it (Kick-Ass is rated “R”.  But if, like me, you’re looking for some tight writing, a gripping story, characters whose motivation is refreshing and original, Kick-Ass is for you. Be ready for more red stuff than the Red Cross blood drive and swearing worse than you’d hear at the nation’s largest truck stops. If that doesn’t scare you, it’s a fun ride.

Leaving the film I told Cheryl, “this is a story I can write.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being egotistical.  It’s just my kind of work. I’m attracted to the fact that it features a normal guy involved in stressful events far over his head. For the most part, he’s interested only in transcending his banal life and standing for something. He learns that the world he thinks he wants is far scarier and involved than he’d first thought. Isn’t this the same shock most kids get after high school? Wonderful themes and the film that’s given me a new jolt of energy to go make the next words I type count.

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The Case For Proof Reading

We’ve all made the mistake of missing something while proofing a document.  Hell, I sent a hacked up, incomplete draft copy to a client a couple weeks ago and had to eat part of my fee to make it right.  Get a load of this one, though.  This makes most mistakes seem minor.  http://www.smh.com.au/national/penguin-reprints-book-peppered-with-an-error-wants-it-taken-with-grain-of-salt-20100416-skjl.html

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To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

We went to the Houston Space Center on Sunday.  It was inspiring to see what NASA has done.  I’m at work today with a new energy… sure, those of you who know me remember my nickname “energizer bunny”…but now the bunny has even more energy.

Know why?

John F. Kennedy said that we go to the moon “not because they are easy, but because they are hard….”.  It makes sense to me.  It seems that those things that are difficult produce great results.  We’re living this day exactly one time.  I have one chance to do it right.  There are two paths….I should choose the one more difficult option.  I should choose to live my life to see what moon I can reach.

Anyway, I’d love to write more but I’m too inspired to sit here.  Time to tackle my five mile hill run.

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Charlie is gone

Okay, here’s a personal story.  Really personal.  It’s the kind of story I don’t really like to read when other people write about it, but I’m going to do it anyway:  our cat is missing.

To start, we have two cats (or rather, HAD two cats):  Comit and Charlie.

I never wanted anything to do with Charlie.  He was brought home from Cheryl’s office one day by the entire family, who gang tackled me into accepting this new member of our family.  Who was I to say no?  There is a funny part to this story:  I had been very, very late that day, and I was sure that Cheryl was going to be angy with me when I arrived home.  I swung into the driveway, ran into the house (foolishly thinking that at this point, well over an hour late, running in would make it a-0kay).  Cheryl was waiting in the foyer.  Big trouble for me.

“Tell me you love me,” she said.  I had no idea what was going on, but I was sooooo relieved that she wasn’t angry at me for being late.  So I said it.  Then she sprang on me that although we already had a cat and lived in a 1400 square foot house which was too small for four humans, let alone four humans and two cats, she had decided to bring home another one.   Brilliant.

Charlie had become “Autumn’s cat”, sleeping with her every day.  I am not sure how Charlie could stand Autumn’s room….maybe the cat has an inferior sense of smell, but that’s where he slept. 

Two days ago he disappeared.  We’ve all marched around the neighborhood looking for him, to no avail. 

Godspeed, Charlie, wherever you’ve gone.  Godspeed.

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It’s Monday

So here it is….Monday and I’m starting my blog.  I’m sure with practice I’ll get good at this.  I’m sure with practice you’ll begin to like my musings on nearly absolutely nothing!

In July of this year I left my role as a financial advisor and the WXYZ “Money Man” to follow my spouse, Cheryl, south to Texarkana, TX.  She had a great opportunity with a pediatric practice here, and after some great thought we decided to make the move.  I am now back in school to become a high school teacher.  I also work in marketing for my brother’s company, Key Media, and I am pursuing writing (both copywriting and fiction).

Moving to another city is more difficult than it seems.  At first you’re excited about the shininess of it all.  You like the change.  No more baloney with people you don’t like….there’s nobody here you know so there is nobody to not like!  However, after about six months you wish you had someone you could call and just say, “hey, let’s go down and grab a beer.”  That doesn’t exist here yet.  It may over time, but not yet.  Of course, it’s difficult to make friends when you’re sitting in your home office all day at the computer.  This is hardly a way to get out and meet the locals.

That said, I like the locals I’ve met here.  It’s funny.  People talk about differences between the south and north.  I think much of this is shrouded in accents and religion.  Once people realize that we all have similar fears it’s amazing how alike we are.  I will admit that I talk slower here so people can understand me.  I’ve had people comment that they don’t know I’m from Michigan.  Maybe it’s my media experience, but I still think I sound different than most people I talk to.  

So, what’s going on in the story as we pick it up here in the blog?

I’m getting ready to send a story, “Jillian’s Magic Raincoat” to a potential publisher.  This will be my first attempt and it’s like sending my baby to college.   

I’m bidding on several jobs through elance.  I’ve found this site to be incredibly well laid out and professional.  You want to see web 2.0 in action?  Look at elance.com.  (I won’t be charging them for the plug.)  

I’ve started coaching with the local AAU track team.

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