It’s the first week of March and we’ve already seen temperatures in the 80s here in Oklahoma. Spring is coming early, it seems. We didn’t get much of the winter precipitation that we need, though, so we’ve already been under a burn ban twice in the last month. That doesn’t bode well for the summer. But I’ve been writing! Feedback is a good thing!
One of my goals this year is to write two short stories. I’m halfway there. I kind of cheated, though, since I took a college class in short story writing.
I have been happily challenged in this class, which surprised me because it’s an online class. While I’ve taken several online classes at TCC, I haven’t felt like they were as effective for me as an in-person class. That may have had something to do with one of the instructors.
At any rate, I knew we’d have to write one story for this class, although I was hoping we might do two. The guidance was to write a 2,500-5,000 word story, in any genre we cared for. The professor made the point at the beginning of the term that she taught mostly literary fiction, but would not limit us to that.
After several false starts, I finally found inspiration in Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away,” from the album The Distance. I posted the 5,142-word story to the class critique forum Wednesday night and sat back to wait.
It’s an odd feeling to post a story like that to a critique group and ask people directly for their feedback. I’ve had beta readers look at my books before, so it’s not a totally unfamiliar thing to do. But the two people who have beta-read for me both volunteered, and I know them well enough that I knew they wouldn’t savage me. I didn’t expect my classmates to be harsh in their critiques, but I only know one of them from another class. Plus there’s some anonymity to an online class, even if you know someone in the real world. There’s an emotional distance or disconnect that doesn’t exist in a class where you’ll see someone in the classroom every other day.
That disconnect is part of what makes some people so brave on Facebook and other social media platforms, I think.
Naturally, I didn’t need to worry. All of the commentaries were favorable. Turns out I need to be careful repeating words; apparently “so” is my word-of-the-week. I started a lot of sentences with it.
One person said, “It is going to be hard for the workshops to maintain the level of quality that you bring to the class.”
The other common comment was that I needed to develop my secondary characters a little more thoroughly. I’d agree with that. I had a good grasp on Charlie, who he was, and why he was doing what he was doing. Lisa and Mike, not so much.
Mike’s a bartender at a roadhouse in a little town in Minnesota. He’s content with where things are in his life right now. Then Charlie shows up and helps him realize that content isn’t the same as happy. But one reader made the comment that it seemed like Mike was just there to move things along.
Lisa is another story. Seger’s lyrics don’t say much about her.
Met a girl and we had a few drinks
And I told her what I’d decided to do
She looked out the window a long long moment
Then she looked into my eyes
She didn’t have to say a thing,
I knew what she was thinkin’
We never even said a word,
We just walked out and got on that bike
And we rolled
And we rolled clean out of sight
I felt a little restricted by the word count, so I know I can say more about her. When I revise this it’s probably going to end up in the 6,500 word range. I think too I tried too hard to mimic the song. I’ve got a lot more time and space to develop people, and I need to make better use of it.
I haven’t decided yet how I’m going to publish the story. I’ve got an idea that I might want to try. One of my branding taglines years ago was going to be “Stories inspired by songs.” Don’t Stop Believing is one of those stories. One story for Red Dirt Justice comes from a Carrie Underwood song.
I figured out that while not every song I’m inspired by is right to be developed into a novel, many of them are fine for a short story. So maybe there’s a short story analogy in my future. I just have to decide which song to do next. I think I’ll have some fun with that, and involve the two or three fans on my mailing list.
It’s a new month, so it’s time to review my goals.
30,892 words for the month, up almost 8,100 from February 2016.
3,533 for the blog.
9,585 for school.
3,341 in emails.
13,933 in social media postings.
I’m still about 29k words off my desired pace for the year, but at the end of January, I was 48k behind, so I’m catching up. I’m also way off my pace for blog posts.
Spring break is coming up in a couple of weeks, so I’m planning on getting much of the editing of Finding Angie done in that time. I still need to work on the title, though.
What books did I read? I only got one read last month, The Battle of Jericho, by Walter Marks, which was OK. I started on Rachel Hall’s Heirlooms, but haven’t gotten very far on it. It’s for my short story class, so it’s required reading, and we know how that affects your interest in a story. Still, I want to get most of the way through it before mid-month, as Hall is going to be in Tulsa on the 19th. I’ve never attended a book reading before and I’m looking forward to this one.
I’ve also added a link to my YouTube channel, such as it is. Find all of my social media channels at the bottom of any page, at the top-right corner of my blog posts, or on my About page.