I haven't been part of a writer's group (off-line) since before Robbie was born. Honestly I hadn't been looking very hard. The Nashville group had both good and bad points, and while I wrote more while I was a member, I don't think it otherwise did me much good. The group was large, the level of writer was all over the map (I'm still haunted by the purple sapient broccoli and the walrus who wanted to date a supermodel.), and the critiquing likewise. Some of the writers could be downright brutal in their assessment of others work, which can be helpful if it's done well. Unfortunately, the most brutal critics (at least in this group) tended to be simultaneously unhelpful. Critques of a presented short story included the memorable "She should kill herself. At least then something would happen." of a first-person semi-autobiographical story (Yes, I know. I cringe too, now, but sometimes these things must be written and gotten out of the way.). Being told my work was boring, derivative and should never see the light of day (by the author with the broccoli, who also wrote poetry with metric schemes determined by fractals), was not generally useful.
So when I found there was an SF Writers' group in Louisville, I was of two minds about going to a meeting. Comraderie is wonderful, and the impetus of having to read my stuff out loud to other people does tend to make me plunk my seat in a chair and write. On the other hand, was it really worth the effort of an evening away (much greater now than in pre-kid years) and driving halfway across town for the chance it might be useful?
I mentioned it to Rob - and then tried to back out by deferring to whatever Wed. evening thing he had going (which he does 2-3 Wed. each month). Instead he immediately said I should go, and made sure he was home so I could. So off I set, first three pages of Ghost Dancer in hand.
It's a wonderful group. There were about eight people there - enough for a good number of readers and opinions without being overwhelming. The level of writing quality was high - a great deal higher than I recall from my last group - which probably has something to do with three of the eight being either pro or semi-pro writers. Critiquing was positive and helpful both - they were looking for what they liked, and then pointed it out so you could do more of that. The specific question I asked (whether I had a good chapter break, or whether I should continue with only a scene break), got a specific, detailed answer - and one which makes a lot of sense. And best of all, these all seem to be genuinely nice people. Lots of laughing, no attempts at one upsmanship, all very comfortable with one another, even though it was straight to business and not terribly much socializing. I'll be going back as often as my schedule allows.
Of course the fact that they liked my opening didn't hurt my opinion of them any either. I'm as vain as the next person. "Your writing style reminds me of James Patterson" doesn't feel bad as an opening comment!
On the karate front, I've hit the jump-lunge in Kusanku - which is loads of fun to practice on a slick linoleum floor, let me tell you. My knees may never be the same. The jump-lunge is the one part of empty hand kata in Isshinryu that I've never done before. The last time I learned it, I was about five months pregnant, and OB's tend to frown (or more accurately, explode in horror) at the idea of leaping into the air and landing in a deep lunge. If I can clear enough floor in the family room to practice the jump at home it should go easier - at least I won't have to worry about having my feet slide and ripping my muscles if I'm on rug.
I'm hoping to get to the end of Kusanku by early April, so I can be letting it ripen by the time we hit weapons camp. I feel like I'll retain more if I'm not simultaneously trying to retain other new material.
Writing Update: Sorry to miss a couple of days - I mostly vetted Chpt. 1 obsessively on Wed., but did make some forward motion Thurs. & Friday.
Ghost Dancer - second edit
Word Count: 97,900 (the general trend is down, despite new words written. I think this is good. Tightening is good, yes?)
Words Edited: 14,454
Scenes Total: 54
Scenes Edited: 10
New Scenes Written: 1.5 (about 1000 new words)
Words which confuse Spellcheck: stroganoff, reconstituted, flinched, swallowing (though oddly enough it had swallowling - which I think is a baby swallow - who the heck programmed this thing?)
Task o' the day: Trying to come up with new and exciting ways to introduce fellow students and politics. This is likely to be the task o' the week, if not longer.
A Country for Children - first draft
New Words: 3326 - not all of these are mine. In fact about 2/3's of them are L's. But we're both moving forward, so yay us!
Current total: 14,849