(This is a mirror site of my webpage karenjcarlisle.com)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Breaking free of Isolation

For the past seven months I have been writing. Alone. I have been slogging away at the computer or scribbling in my notebooks or on loose sheets of recycled paper, developing plots, writing prose and polishing my work. When I had ‘writers’ block’, I would often do internet searches for articles by authors or publishers to learn more technical aspects of my chosen craft.

You can blame this research for this blog. I read many times that I needed to practice writing regularly; to make a daily task and develop the discipline of writing. A few sources quoted trying to either write or read 1500 words a day. The writing and reading could be split up to total 1500 words, so that made it a more achievable task (especially on the said ‘writers’ block’ days. Sometime I read novels. Sometimes I read books on ‘how to write’. During this time, I have seen a change in my writing. Though I was now sharing my work (a big step forward), I had little feedback other than number of hits/reads on the blog (I still don’t know how to gauge how many is  lot). I was still writing in isolation.

However there is only so much I can learn by writing without contact with other writers. I had been reading articles (and blogs) on others’ experiences in writing groups;  help overcoming ‘writers’ block’, learning new techniques, new ideas, writing outside the comfort zone, inspiration and talking to like-minded people are all things that can be achieved by attending a writers’ group. I was hoping to have other writers of speculative fiction give me constructive critique and learn new ways of honing my craft – from people and not just the internet.  

So I Googled it.  There were not many local writers’ groups. One met at a pub on a Thursday night and the other at the local library. I am not a drinker and Thursday nights require possible organisation of baby sitters, so I opted for the one at the library which was at a perfect time with regards to child wrangling. I attended one meeting to see how it all worked.

It was a general writing group but there were a couple of speculative fiction writers who had actually heard of ‘Steampunk’ or ‘Gaslamp’ writing so I did not feel like a complete alien. It was a pleasant group but not unexpectedly this long standing group had a full compliment of writers, so I was put on a waiting list. But luck was on my side as the two specative fiction took me aside at the end of the meeting and suggested we start up a new writers’ group based on our genre. Happy me!

Everyone lives busy lives so, a few weeks later, I emailed the two writers to see if they were indeed still interested; they were. Bonus!  Friday was our first meeting. We learnt more about each other, discussed what we each hoped to get from a writers’ group. We were all much in agreement on the basics. In all there are about seven of us, of varying writing stages. We have an experienced writer who has not written speculative fiction before but wants to stretch herself. We have a couple of published authors (one in the genre), a totally newbie and me – not as new but not very experienced.

I have a good feeling about this group. I came away feeling much more confident. Wow! Who knew that the (average of) four short stories I manage to write a month it a lot?! Apparently two is  a good number… I was thinking I was being rather slack! This is the sort of thing that a writers’ group can tell me. I have no idea of how to judge my work and compare my output or writing styles or techniques, with others or the industry, if the only way I am connecting with other writers is via works on the internet or reading already published books.

Having written mostly in isolation, with only a few trusted people to proof read my work and negligible feedback from competitions is very difficult. (the only feedback I have received was the success on shortlisting of my short story on Aust. Lit. Review. I still don’t know why it did better than other stories).  I may be able to glean some technical help via my computer but there is the lack of human interaction and gauging  the effect of writing styles and plot lines is very difficult. I feel like I have been treading water, almost floundering, and now I can come up for air with a helping hand to pull me out.  I am at a point where I need to grow more and this writers’ group could be just the thing I needed…

Now… we just need a name!

Breaking free of Isolation

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