Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Write With Friends.

Back in November (yes, NaNoWriMo) I started outlining a fairly long and complex story about a strong female character solving mysteries in a dry and dusty world of the distant future. It was fun. The story gained complexity and went in directions I hadn't expected.

One problem, though, was this: I couldn't figure out how to end it.

Basically I had two options, both of which involved the main character making a difficult choice. Neither of these options really satisfied me, though. In fact, the option that I liked better was the least realistic choice based on the characters I had developed.

What to do, what to do?

Well my initial thought was to re-work the characters, but by the time I gave in to that idea I had already plowed through 60,000 words and felt really good about the characters as I had originally envisioned.

This indecision led to months of no progress on the actual writing of the story as I sat in writer's limbo.

Finally, a few days ago, I approached my long time friend and asked if he's read through my first draft - mainly just looking to see if the concept worked for him. He read a bit of it and a day or two later we talked about it. After his criticisms we talked about where the story was going, problems I hadn't resolved yet, and so-on.

At last, I revealed my deep dark secret. I presented my options to him. He agreed it was going to be tough to decide which would be best. Not too long afterwards he said "You know, you could always really mess with the readers..." He described a world which veered wildly from my chosen outline. It was entertaining, but not what I wanted to do.

Then the light bulb turned on over his head. I saw it in his left eyebrow as it lifted gradually towards his hairline.

"There's a third option..." he said.

And he was right. It was satisfying. It was surprising. It changed everything and forced characters together in uncomfortable and exciting ways.

So the message is this: Write with your friends. You don't need to actually write with them, obviously, but get people involved who can see things from the outside. We writers are a naturally secretive, suspicious and reclusive group of people. We tend to hide not just our writing but our ideas like it was a precious treasure. It may be time to change that behavior.

Find friends who can share your passion and excitement and work together. You'll be glad you did.


Sarah Pearson said...

I totally agree. I tend to bounce things off my daughter when I get stuck. She always comes up with really off the wall stuff, but hidden in it is often a little gem.

SherryE said...

I agree, too! I love my critique group. They help me see things in a different light, and they inspire new ideas.

Anonymous said...

Hey Greg, first time visitor and great to meet you. Stopping in from Sarah Pearson's blog to say hello. Good luck to you in the Blogdom!

Uh oh. I see your Word Verification (WV) is still on. I'm on a mission to rid the world of this unnecessary evil frustration! Please stop by my blog and select the How To Turn Off Your Word Verification tab and help make the world a better place one blog at a time.

Greg Hamblin said...

Thanks Stephen. Will do.

Myrna Foster said...

And sometimes, when you're helping someone else with their writing, you realize how to fix problems with your own. At least, I do. :o)

Great post!

Mark Koopmans said...


Your wife, and Sarah, said we have to be friends.

So there.

Michael Di Gesu said...

HI, Greg,

Dropped over from Sarah's blog.

I couldn't agree with your more. At first, for a limited time, I was secretive with my writing. But NOW... Try to stop me from sharing my work with anyone who is interested.

You will really enjoy this community. We are a passionate, helpful, and caring bunch... WELCOME!

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

any friend of sarah's... is probably crazy enough to be fun to follow! :P

YES! the first time i found another writer to read and critique my work it was like:
DUDE!!! worlds opening!!! WONDERFUL!

you're so right, it feels against our nature. our secret, my precious (gollum-voice) ideas- the possibility of hearing our work is excrement. it's all very scary and awkward... but when you find someone GOOD, someone who you can help and who can help you, well, that's kinda magical, huh?

nice to meet you, sir!
welcome to blogland. (you might want to buckle up...)

Krista V. said...

Welcome to the blogosphere, Greg! And just so you know, I expect this blog to be EXTREMELY funny... :)

Greg Hamblin said...

Oh, Krista, I'm never funny in a public setting. Never.


LynNerdKelley said...

Hello Greg! I'm here from Sarah Pearson's blog. Welcome to the Blogosphere. I love writing with friends and getting their input. I'm coauthor of a children's spooky mystery series and I love co-writing. Glad you got your plot figured out with the help of your friend!

mish said...

Hi Greg
I'm popping in from Sarah's blog! Welcome to the Blogosphere... or Blogiverse...
The online writing community is awesome!!

About me? I call myself a writer-in-the-making - I'll let the reader decide "if" or "when" I've "made it"!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the blogging world... found you through Sarah's blog. I totally agree on getting friends involved in the process of writing... looking at something for too long means I always miss many things...:)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Welcome to the blogging world! Nice to meet you! :)

Nick Wilford said...

Over here from Sarah's blog too. Nice to meet you!

It's great to get others' perspective on your work (once you feel ready to expose your babies to the big bad world). They can point out things you would never have thought of and flag up what's not working too. I hear good advice is to ask as many as possible and go with the "average" view on a certain point.

Rachel Morgan said...

Hello, The Gregwriter :-)
Yeah, I also "hide" my writing from a lot of my friends! At least until it's in a finished, polished form.

Coleen Patrick said...

Hi Greg! Stopping by from Sarah's blog :)

Sarah said...

I'm not a big fan of sharing my writings with my friends but I used to post them on a writing website to share with other writers. That usually helped in terms of figuring out where there were inconsistencies in the story.

It's funny but you have the exact opposite problem that I have. My stories usually start with an ending but I have to struggle with how to begin them.

Glad to hear you found a satisfying ending to your story. :)

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