Posts Tagged ‘joseph ostler’


     

     Me and my friends’ Kim (Williams-Justesen) and Joe (Ostler) talked about forming our own critique group for many months before we ever got together and actually did it. The trouble was that the project Kim and I were collaborating on was very high in gore and horror, and I, being the nice guy I am, didn’t feel comfortable corrupting poor Joe by subjecting him to the nastiness and raw morbidity of our story, (little did I realize at the time that Joe has his own unique brand of deviance ~ but hey, I was trying to be nice!) Just kidding, Joe. 😉

So, as Kim and I wrapped up An Evil Heart, we both began new (and far tamer)  projects which we used in our critique group of three. The interesting thing about our group is that I write Horror/Supernatural, Kim writes for Middle Grade and Young Adult, and Joe writes Sci-Fi/High Fantasy, so the contrast of our styles creates a fun dynamic. The three of us were only able to meet twice though. I am leaving the state in two days from now, but we plan to continue the group through Instant Messenger and e-mail, but already, in the short time I have been a participant of a critique group, I have learned a good deal.

A critique group is an assembly of writers who’ve come together for the purpose of gaining insight and feedback from other writers, and no matter how good a writer you may be, there can be no arguing the benefits of being part of one. Critique groups may be as large or small as the group desires. They may be done face to face, over the phone, or online.

The beauty of the critique group is that however polished a writer may be, he or she will undoubtedly overlook some necessary detail at some point in his or her story. The other member’s of the group will hopefully be able to see these snags and help the writer smooth them over. Editors, agents and publishers don’t want raw and sloppy rough drafts. They want polished, revised material that has been read and critiqued, preferably a few times over. A critique group can help a writer be sure that the material he or she sends to an agent or editor is clean, concise, and professional.

     There are however, those groups of writers who do not have their fellows’ best interests at heart. I’ve heard many horror stories about really nasty critique groups whose members were apparently more interested in stroking their own egos than becoming better writers. These kinds of folks undoubtedly run rampant in writing communities worldwide. These kinds of writers aren’t hard to spot and should be avoided at all times. When someone works up the courage to allow his or her work to be viewed by others, I think we need to respect the vulnerability of the writer. That’s not to say that honesty isn’t imperative, it absolutely is, but honesty in and of itself does not need to be cruel. Writer’s are up against enough rejection and damage without having his or her peers standing in line to take turns crushing him or her. Critique groups should be constructive and supportive, and if they aren’t, find a new one. End of story.

Critique groups are as good (or bad) as the members make them, and I am grateful to have a pretty good, albeit very small, group of trusted writers to share my work with. It’s a disconcerting and unfortunately very necessary thing to lay your heart out and ask to be critiqued. To find just a handful of people who I feel comfortable asking feedback from is a wonderful thing.

     The world in general loves to give its opinion and whether you ask for it or not, you are going to get it. The trouble is, you have to be very careful who you listen to. The way I see it, you can divide the world’s population into three groups. The first (and probably largest) group, are those who really just don’t much care whether or not you succeed or fail. The second group is what I call the “cockroaches”. These guys will go out of their way to try to sabotage your success and sense of self-confidence. And the third and final group is the group you need to stick with. These are the folks who want to be better people themselves, and who want to help you become a better person.

So if you are thinking of joining or creating  your own critique group, my advice is to be sure you are among good company because, as important as it is to get feedback from other people, it’s even more important that you don’t give up on writing at the hands of someone who took it upon him or herself to let you know how bad you suck. We all suck or have sucked at some time or another. Totally sucking is the first step of good writing, so if you have to suck, why not suck with the best of them? 🙂

Write on.

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     I like to kill people and as of this moment, I have killed eleven of them. Not real ones of course, but fictional ones. I don’t know that I would enjoy murdering a real person. I don’t think I would be very good at it for one thing, and for another, it just seems too messy… but give me paper, a pen and a storyline, and it’s all I can do to let anyone get off of the page alive.

     I don’t know what it says about my psyche, that I so enjoy murdering make-believe people. Believe it or not, I don’t have any unusual fixations with death or violence, but it would be interesting to see what a psychologist might say about it. My best personal guess is that it derives from a childhood spent watching horror movies and reading gory books. Then again, I have to wonder what drew me to that kind of story in the first place~ so it becomes a kind of what came first, The chicken or the egg? ordeal. I don’t know the answer to that, and for the most part, I’ve given up trying to figure it out, but sometimes, something makes you stop and wonder why you are the way you are.

     I was at a writing event with my friend Joe a few weeks ago, and as we introduced ourselves, we were asked, “So, what do you write?” Joe’s answer was quick and confident, but when I was asked the same question, I hesitated. “Ummm… horror, I guess,” was my answer. This awarded me some chuckles and some confused looks. “I don’t ever set out to write horror,” I said, explaining myself, “but that’s just the direction it always seems to go.” They nodded their heads in understanding and I realized I was among others who understood the strange phenomenon of fiction writing; that I was home so to speak, and it made me wonder how much of what we write is a conscious decision and how much of it just is what it is.

Although I knew that the project I am currently working on with Kim Williams-Justesen was going to be horror from the beginning, I still didn’t expect it to be quite so gruesome. And as for the one I wrote before it, I had no intention of it going so dark. It will be interesting to see what shape my next project takes on as I don’t see any way it could possibly fall under the horror genre. Still, I somehow get the feeling that a little bit of that will creep into the story, with or without my consent. The question then is, do I allow nature to run its course, or do I steer the story in a milder direction? Is horror just a part of my writing voice that I need to accept, or is it  something I need to learn to control? And is that even possible? Again, I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I will soon find out.

     In the meantime, I’m having a hell of a good time shedding fictitious blood by the bucketfuls and will be sad when my current project, where murder and violence are expected, is finished.  To me, there is true art in (fictional) murder, and everything from the shower scene in Psycho to the contemporary and far more complex murders in the Saw movies, make it clear to me that I am not the only one who feels this way.

Facebook Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/thejerodscott?ref=hl

And P.S. ~ The beast has been unleashed.

Beautiful Monster is now available in eBook and paperback editions at Damnation Books: http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615727742
Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Monster-ebook/dp/B00948Q0DK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1347132178&sr=8-2&keywords=Beautiful+Monster+Jared
and Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beautiful-monster-mimi-a-williams/1112783047?ean=9781615727759


     Today, me and my friend Joe attended the League of Utah Writers spring conference at the Bountiful Arts Center.  Writing conferences, workshops and retreats are quite varied in their range of possibilities.  Some of these events are overflowing with writers, publicists, agents and publishers, while others are smaller and more limited in their scopes of activities and purpose.  I have attended several of these conferences in the last year and, for a couple of reasons, the one I attended today was one of my favorites.

     The spring conference began at 9:00 a.m. and ended at about 3:30 p.m.  The first speaker was Jennifer Nielsen, author of Elliot and the Goblin War, with Sourcebooks Publishing.  The next in the series, Elliot and the Pixie Plot will release in May and a third will follow this fall.  Jennifer Nielsen opened with a great speech on the psychology of characterization.  In this segment, we learned how to understand the psychology of our characters through a series of different exercises.  Jennifer was an awesome speaker and presented the material in a way that was both fun and informative.

     John Brown, author of Servant of a Dark God series by Tor Books was next.  From him, we learned the secret of story structure and how to develop a killer story.  In the secrets of story structure, I was struck, as I often am when I am talking to a real-life published author, by his no-nonsense and simplistic approach to the art of storytelling.  There are so many convoluted myths and “formulas” out there that it’s always nice to hear  a successful writer tell you, as John did, that in order to be successful, you don’t need to follow any specific confusing formula, be an alcoholic, suffer from any mental disorders, be especially blessed by the talent gods, be inordinately gloomy and moody, or wear funny hats.  Instead, what he (and so many other published writers) believe in is practice, self-discipline, goal-setting, the tenacity to continually improve your craft, and the courage to press onward in a business that is highly competitive, persnickety and often seems unfair.   John Brown was a passionate, enthusiastic and incredibly funny speaker.  He is someone I’ve decided I would really like to get to know.

     After him, Margot Hovley, whose first novel will be released in summer of this year, spoke about the ten most important rules of (good) writing, and finally, Marion Jensen (who writes under the pen name Matthew Buckley), author of Chicken in the Headlights and Bullies in the headlights, spoke on using social media in the writing process.  From him, we learned the importance of, and the most advantageous ways of using sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and myriad blog sites for networking with other writers, promoting our work and utilizing the kind of content that will attract the kind of following you want.

     This conference is one of several I have recently attended and what fascinates me is the fact that it hasn’t become dull to me.  Each time I attend a conference, I learn new things, meet new and fascinating people and leave with a stronger sense of confidence in my writing as well as a firmer belief that I am doing what I should be doing, that I am right where I belong.

     My friend Joe just signed up with the League of Utah Writers last Tuesday.  This was his first conference, so it was very cool for me to get to be there.  Joe is an incredible writer who seems to be in that same frustrating place I was in a few years back~ I knew I wanted to write, knew I was good at it, but wasn’t quite sure exactly how to go about it.  At that time, the whole thing seemed so overwhelming.  It intimidated me and vexed me to no end.  Then, after much hesitation, I decided to check some of these conference things out.  What I didn’t realize until I started attending was how important these conferences are, and how many doors they can potentially open.  Don’t get me wrong… I am still frustrated, vexed and intimidated, but now, I understand how very normal these feelings are in this business… and that I am not alone, and that makes this all a whole lot easier.  Not to mention, I have met some incredible people, been given some awesome opportunities and had a damned good time of it.  I hope my friend Joe finds the same things.  He seemed interested throughout and afterward, said he had a good time and said we should do it again.  So Joe… good luck to you!  And yes… let’s do it again. 

For more information on the authors, check out their websites:

www.johndbrown.com

www.jennielsen.com

http://www.appendixpodcast.com

www.marionjensen.com

www.margothovley.com

www.luwriters.com