Sunday, November 9, 2014

Two November Meetings!

Catholic writers in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex are invited to attend either or both of our November meetings. Our second Tuesday lunchtime meeting will be this Tuesday, November 11, from  11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Half-Price Books on Northwest highway near Central Expressway. Feel free to bring your lunch or pick one up at the in-house Black Forest Cafe.

The second meeting will take place in Rm 241 of Carpenter Hall on the campus of the University of Dallas in Irving, beginning at 7:30 p.m on Tuesday, November 25.

If you would like the group to critique a project you have in hand, be sure to bring 8-10 copies. Or just come and share your writing goals with us. Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Writing: It's a process, not an event

“Writing is a recursive process, not a one-time event.” That’s what I used to tell my college students, back when I was teaching at a state university where “teaching the writing process” was a prescribed core component of  freshman composition classes. I don’t know how many of my students really internalized the truth of that dictum, but it’s an idea that has stood me in good stead in the years since I turned from teaching to writing full-time.

My whole writing process is represented here:
pre-writing, writing, not writing, re-writing.

It’s a Process

Every process has discrete steps or stages of development. For writing, generally, these steps are: pre-writing, writing, re-writing. (I’m actually going to throw in one more step, which I call “not writing.”) Every successful writer goes through all four parts of this process, although some of them may be completed only mentally, not in writing. In this article and subsequent posts, I’d like to introduce the different parts of this process and share a little of my own experience with them. Feel free to throw in your own two cents’ worth, too, in the comments section at the end.

Recursive

Recursive just means there are parts of the process that you’ll find yourself going back over as your work progresses. This is perfectly normal — writing an article or a story is not the same as completing an algebraic equation. The different parts of the process flow into one another, often in unexpected ways. This is because writing is a creative process, drawing on the imagination as well as intellect, and your mind will come up with new ideas as you go along. You need to be prepared to capture and make use of those ideas, even if they occur to you at inconvenient moments. Just jot them down and go back to them at a more convenient time.

My Process So Far

As I prepare to write Draft 4 of my Neverending Story first novel, I’m learning just how “recursive” the process really is. Since finishing Draft 3.5 (that’s my third full draft, with the beginning and end completely re-written), I’ve realized that before going ahead with the next draft, I need to revisit some of the earlier parts of the process.

You see, as I’ve been writing (lo these many months), I’ve been discovering new gaps in my original idea, feeling the need to find new depths in my characters and their interactions, and realizing that the next draft can’t simply spackle over the holes in previous versions. The whole thing needs to be re-imagined, re-organized, and the next draft will need to be freshly written, virtually from scratch.

Some of the gaps and deficiencies of the earlier drafts are due simply to the fact that I’ve never written a novel before, and I’m learning as I go. That’s okay, because I know that writing is a recursive process. Even though I developed my main characters through a careful process, way back at the beginning, I’ve now seen them in action and come to know them better — as well as realizing the ways in which I don’t yet know them well enough. So I’ve been going back and “interviewing” them to find out what really makes them tick and why they do the things they do. Similarly, although my original plot outline was basically sound, I now see that it needs to be revised because, as I’ve gotten to know my characters better, I’ve had to reevaluate when they would do what, and why, so the plot needs a little tweaking as well. It’s all part of the process.

Next time, I’ll talk about the first part of the writing process. In the meantime, if you’re in the Dallas area, why not join us for one of our twice-monthly meetings? Our next meeting is Tuesday, October 27, 7 p.m., at the University of Dallas, and the following one will begin at 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, November 11, at the Half Price Books flagship store in Dallas. Click the “Where & When We Meet” tab at the top of this page for details.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Time for our September meeting!

Toni Morrison quote
Our next second-Tuesday lunchtime meeting is this Tuesday, September 9. Check out the details here. Remember, all Catholic writers are welcome. We charge no dues, and you don't have to know the secret handshake. Just show up! If you'd like to get on our mailing list, email Nancy Ward.

Our fourth Tuesday evening meetings at the University of Dallas will resume on September 23 at 7:30, Room 241 of Carpenter Hall. Anyone is welcome to attend either or both of these meetings.

We hope to see new faces and old friends at both. Remember to bring about 10 copies of anything that you would like the group to critique.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

The secret to becoming a better writer

Do you want to be a writer, but hesitate? Do you think, “I have things to say, but I just can’t write well”? I've heard too many people say this, and I know that many times it simply is not true. I think what people mean when they say such things is simply that they don’t produce perfect first drafts. Guess what? No one does.

Being a good writer does not mean that beautiful, inspiring, grammatically perfect, fully formed sentences flow effortlessly from your fingertips whenever you sit down to write. Nor does it meant that you must endure excruciating writer's block first, but once that's out of the way  inspiration hits and those perfectly formed sentences will begin to flow.

Let me tell you a little secret, one that every successful writer knows, a secret that can make anyone a better writer. Are you ready for it? Here goes: real writing, good writing is rewriting.


Does that sound scary? Are you thinking “writing is hard enough, so re-writing will only be harder”? Then we won’t call it rewriting, we’ll call it revision. Re-vision: taking a fresh look at what you just wrote and discerning where the weaknesses are, then doing something to make those parts more effective.

The first draft is never the best draft -- in fact, very often, it may be downright lousy. (You should have seen the first few drafts of this article!) But if you take the time and effort to figure out what is making it lousy, you can make it better. Maybe it will take two, three, four, or eight drafts before you have really said what you want to say, in the way you want to say it, but when you’ve taken the time to get it right, you’ll have no regrets.  Check out the recommended reading at the end of this article for some great ideas on how to go about revising your writing.

Let’s face it, though –it’s hard to be objective about your own writing. You may have trouble seeing what’s working and what’s not, because, although you know what’s in your head, you may not realize when it doesn’t all make it onto the page. That’s when you might want a trusted friend or colleague to take a look at your draft and tell you what they find works or doesn’t, which part is boring or confusing and which part is sparkling with life and truth. Joining a writing group can help. Don’t know how to find a writing group? MeetUp is a great place to get started finding a group that meets in your area and shares your interests.

Every month the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group meets to give members a chance to get feedback on their writing, swap progress reports, and generally engage in mutual support and encouragement. Our next meeting will be Tuesday, August 12, at the usual time and place. Feel free to attend – we have no dues, no dress code, no secret handshake, no intimidation factor. We would love to see you there!

Want to know more about revising and rewriting? Try one of these helpful articles.
  • Revising & Rewriting, by Judy Reeves, “writer, teacher, and writing practice provocateur.” Solid advice on what to look for when revising.
  • A Month of Revision, by Matt Salesses. Most of this is just for fiction writers, but there are some wonderful nuggets here for any writer in any genre.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Curious about our group? Read on!

There's no need to go it alone.
Join us!
For the timid and the curious, here is a little information on the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group. We hope you will join us! Our next meeting is Tuesday, 8 July 2014.
  •  Who: The name is pretty self-explanatory: we are writers from the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area whose writing is, one way or another, fueled by our Catholic faith. Some of us write for a specifically Catholic audience, while others aim at a more general readership. But all of us write with the intention of being published, whether that be via a traditional publishing house, self-publishing, blog, online magazine, or some other publishing medium. I.e., we are not merely hobbyists, but want to get our work "out there" to be read. You will find catechists, novelists and short story writers, bloggers, people writing about their personal experiences and those who offer Catholic opinions. In other words, a little bit of everything. 
Our group is inspired by and affiliated with the Catholic Writers Guild, but members of our group need not be members of CWG (but wouldn't you like to be? Click here!). We do not charge dues, and welcome all who wish to attend our meetings.
  • What: We meet for fellowship and mutual encouragement; to share tips, information, and advice; to seek and provide feedback and critiques of our works in progress. If you have something you would like the group to critique or comment on, bring 8-10 copies.
  • When: Every second Tuesday of the month at midday throughout the year and, during the academic term, one evening a month at the University of Dallas.
  • Where: Midday meetings are held in (or immediately outside) the community room of the flagship Half Price Books store in Dallas, from 11:30 to 1:00. Feel free to bring your lunch or pick one up at the in-house Black Forest cafe. Evening meetings during the academic term are held on the campus of the University of Dallas in Irving (time and exact location may vary from one semester to another). 
  • Why: Because writing is a lonely business, and writers need support, encouragement, and human contact. Non-writers may not understand what a long, and sometimes complicated, frequently discouraging task a writing project can be. Once a month, though, writers can get together and recharge -- why not join us?
Our next meeting is Tuesday, 8 July 2014. We hope to see you there! To join our email list to get more timely notifications, email Nancy Ward.

P.S. If you really want a shot in the writing arm, you should attend the annual Catholic Writers Conference, held this year in Chicago, July 30-August 1. There is still time to register! Click here for more info.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Let's get together at the May meeting!

3 squirrels © Lisa A. Nicholas 2014
Let's get together! We saved you a place.
I don't know about you, but I'm excited about the next meeting of the D/FW Catholic Writers Group, this Tuesday, 13 May 2014. Come share your ideas, questions, and progress reports. Bring copies of your current work-in-progress for peer critique. Find out what everyone else is working on -- we always have a fascinating variety of projects going on, some quite modest, others rather ambitious, all interesting.

And remember -- any Catholic who is writing for publication (or would like to do so) is more than welcome! Come on your lunch break or in between errands; you'll find us each second Tuesday at the Half-Price Books on Northwest Highway in Dallas. We'll be at one of the tables in -- or immediately outside of -- the community room at the northwest corner of the building. Bring your lunch, if you wish, or pick one up at the in-house Black Forest Cafe. We meet from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

We hope to see you there!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Meetings this Month: April 8 and 22

butterfly on henbit, copyright © 2014 Lisa A. Nicholas
Spring is the season for
getting busy. Dust off those
writing ideas, and join us!
The Dallas Fort Worth Catholic Writers group exists to encourage and assist any Catholic writer in the area who seeks peer critique, advice, fellowship, or just help getting started writing for publication.

Our next lunchtime meeting is Tuesday, 8 April. We will meet as usual at the Half-Price Books on Northwest Highway in Dallas, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Find us in or near the community room at the northwest corner of the building.
We will meet again on the fourth Tuesday of the month, April 22, at the University of Dallas, Rm 241 of Carpenter Hall, at 7:00 p.m. Please feel free to attend either meeting, or both, and bring writing samples for critique or sharing. Let us know what you have in hand.

We welcome new and returning members -- please pass the word!