Time Out: We’ve retired to Spain

Yes, retired – yes, Espana.  baby-doll-976355__340  After seven years in Dubai,  we are done.

Give me a chance to set up my writing space, and I’ll be posting again.  Miss you.  Miss it.


Critiquing a genre you dislike Part 2

Are you one of those people able to discard a book after 10 pages?  Me too.

Maybe it’s because of my age.  I have spent 50 years reading, on planes and subways, in sleeping bags and bathrooms, and frankly I feel that by now that after 10 pages, I have given the author his chance.  Reading time is precious to me, so if he hasn’t got me hooked in the first 10 pages, I’m waiting on the movie – or my sister’s copy.

‘Cause my sister is younger than me and still feels the need to finish everything she picks up.  So if my sister appears in my kitchen, slams a book on my  counter, unholsters her pistol and says, “Keep reading,” then I give it another chance.  Gone Girl, good example.

But joining a writing group means, well, you know what it means.  Suck it up.

Part of my problem is that my dislike for the genre makes me even more impatient with the flaws of the novel.  So if the characters don’t resonate, I tend to think it’s because I can’t stand bodice rippers (or whatever) anyway.  Not true.  Stunted characterization is what you are there to point out.  That’s your job.

So essentially, it is your job to ignore the genre and respect the writer.  ‘Cause your turn is coming up, and not everyone likes __________.



I have low word count

It is true.  I cannot write a full-length anything right out of the box.

Those of us with this impairment should have a disease named after us.  Or at least a test to take at that point of time when we contemplate the writing life.  Like a DNA test.

Woman, the results are back.  I’m afraid it’s bad news.  You should know before you embark on this creative endeavor that you have a challenge which is not only Herculean, but, well, embarrassing.  Many people will laugh at you behind your back.   It is also potentially (writing) life threatening.  You will need special classes, perhaps even therapy.  It is surmountable, but many do not survive.

It is easier to cut than to add.

Other people wax poetic about their 600,000 word romance/thriller/historical fantasy/fairy tale/graphic novel/western, pretending to complain about their Sisyphean days ahead when really they are saying, look at me, can I write the shit out of this or what?

I envy these people.  I bow to their gay abandon to write down whatever comes into their literate and unabashedly opinionated heads on any given day, at any given moment while I delete whole chapters like an out of control seven-year-old popping balloons at a birthday party.

Me?  I start with an outline.  I know  – control freak, right?  But it’s actually a built-in stress reduction tool because – What if I get to the middle, and I forget what was going to happen?!!!  My nightmares are crowded with multiple choruses shouting,  I forgot what happens after she laid out the poison for the serial killer in the library hefting the weight of a fireplace poker he aimed to use upstairs! (copy-write pending)

Then it’s about 20,000 words before I come up for air, thinking, Lord of Mercy, I’m on fire today.  Actually, it takes about two weeks, and then I’m done.  The well is dry.  Got nothing.

My problem is that I see my story like a cinematic experience happening before my eyes.  I get so engrossed in the action, I don’t notice the elements that make the experience rich, profound, and relate-able.

So, after much, hand-wringing, lamentation, and disassociation, I have hit upon the solution.  Actually, more like I’ve developed a method to deal with my wild, open throttle, galloping  joy ride through plot.  I pick a chapter, lay on my bed and watch it again, like a movie.  Then I describe the scenery.  40, 000 more words.  Bada-bing


Critiquing the genre you dislike > that sinking feeling.

author-1320965__340 Yeah, 1984 and Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451 and The Giver.  After I saw the movie A Clockwork Orange with my brother when I was 19, I puked on the sidewalk outside the theater.   After reading On the Beach, I woke up frightened for weeks I was so affected by the ending of the world.

So dytopian novels are not my genre of choice.  Probably why I am the only person alive who hasn’t read the The Hunger Games books (or at least seen the movies).

But when you join a writing group, you make a commitment, and I am nothing if not about honoring my commitments.  (OK, all honesty?  I  stop reading a book if after 30 pages, I believe could leave it on a bus without moving heaven and earth to retrieve it.  That’s the test)

So here I am with my first novel to critique in my new writing group, and it’s a dytopian world of quarreling Buddhist-ish monks.

The author, knowing I am not her target audience, asked if I was finding it hard going.

“The first 30 pages I read out of respect for you,” I told her.  “After that I was ok.”  And I was.  Because good writing grabs you.  I discovered that it wasn’t that I didn’t like the genre >  I just don’t like being depressed.

Then I remembered The City and The City and Embassytown, two books about dystopian worlds that remain at the top of my list for all time favorites and the holy grail to my writing pursuits.

In part 2, I will tell you how I managed to separate my dytopian anxiety from my role in the writers group.






Writing Group: How do You critique?

What’s your method, sequence, technique, recipe?  Are you a “big picture” kind of gal/guy, or do you share line edits while noting plot holes and info dumps?  Do you work from a list, print it out and use a marker > hand over the copy when you’re done?  Or totally off the cuff, what stuck out for you?  Let me know, and I’ll share!



The Novel Novel Group


I am so pleased to have been invited to join Heidi’s writers group here in Dubai!  Yup, a novel length submission group which is novel for me – other groups I have attended critiqued short lengths of writing – 2000 to 4000 words from as many as six or seven people.  Some were short stories or parts of novels, some were bits of writing on their way to being a short story or novel.


In this new one, we read a complete novel, just one, from one author until we are done – albeit 10-15 chapters at a time, critiquing each section each week.

After two meetings, I can say I do like this new protocol.


  1. As I follow along the story, it’s easier to pick out plot holes/ flaws when I have the whole book.  When critiquing pieces from six or seven authors in short bursts, you get  a short peek into the plot and if you get to read more, it’s usually months later.
  2. I am invested in the story, the characters, the world of the novel.  As I go deeper, I can watch the characters change as each new plot twist unfolds.  Love it!
  3. I can keep track of continuity.  I notice if the car the antagonist drives changes color suddenly,  if mannerisms are out of character from earlier chapters, and since these things are important to me, I assume they are important to the other writers.
  4. I can also I pick out repetitious descriptors and descriptions, something that can break the spell of the book faster than a misspelled word.
  5. And it’s fun to find out that what I thought was a flaw in the narration is really a plot twist I never saw coming in the next chapter.

So, yes, I like this “Novel” group.

Disadvantages?  If you don’t like the genre, it can be hard going – but less than I thought.

This novel I’m reading now is set in a dystopian world of monks and soldiers, very cerebral, chock full of meditation and mind games.  I’m more of an action/dialog kind of gal.  But when the author asked if I found it hard to read, I was pleased to say, “I read the first 30 pages out of respect, but after that I was hooked.”   Good writing always wills out.



Ode to my kid

She’s not me; she’s better.

I had a kid late in life.  Yes, selfish – lots of places I wanted to go, and did.  Lots of things I wanted to do and see -and did.

Then I met my husband who is different.  Because who you like when you are in a hurry, like in your 20’s and 30’s, is a different guy than who you like when you are 40 and sick of slick and shiny.

And we had a kid.  She’s 24.   And holy crap, she turned out great.  I mean GREAT. Independent, hard working, thoughtful, and focused.

Which means if I never write another book, or sell one, or get on a bestseller list or walk to the stage to receive a prize, I have done more good in one human being than any bestseller could do.