JRW Writing Show: A Little Help from my Friends

Tonight’s James River Writers Writing Show focused on writing groups.

Tonight’s James River Writers Writing Show focused on writing groups. Fittingly, all the members of our writing group showed up (a first!).

The Show’s panelists included authors Carolyn Parkhurst (The Dogs of Babel), Leslie Pietrzyk (A Year and a Day) and Susann Cokal (Breath and Bones). Poet and novelist Virginia Pye moderated the discussion.

Panelists discuss their thoughts on writing groups.
Panelists discuss their thoughts on writing groups. Left-to-right: Moderator Virginia Pye, novelists Leslie Pietrzyk, Carolyn Parkhurst and Susann Cokal.

From my notes I wrote that Pietrzyk begins her novels with a question that she can’t answer and a paradox — two things that are each true but cannot be true together. The first part resonated with me. That is, what is the central question in my novel? It isn’t the approach I took — my novel had begun with the characters, but still I think it’s worth examining. So that’s some homework for me.

I also took to heart Cokal’s suggestion that when your work is critiqued, do not immediately make revisions to incorporate them. Keep writing forward, rather than stopping to go back and revise. I am doing that now (revisions) and I don’t like it, though I feel that I must. I want to finish a complete draft. It seems forever out of reach.

When the topic of research came up, I liked Cokal’s remark that reserch is her chance to experience the world of her novel. They all agreed that a few vivid and true details can be all that is necessary to convince the reader that you have been to a place you never visited, but the moment the reader catches you in something implausible, then you may lose them.

I was happy to spot Steve from Fountain Books. I had the opportunity to thank him for his recommendation. Then we discussed The Magicians, which we both liked. He seemed to agree with my point about being a magician is akin to being an alcoholic in Grossman’s novel.

I’m following up this post with NaNoWriMo (hopefully tomorrow if not tonight).

2 thoughts on “JRW Writing Show: A Little Help from my Friends”

  1. I’ve subscribed to your blog, Josh. (At least, I think I did.) I’ll be watching for your posting on the next Writing Show at the end of October, since I’ll be out of town then and the topic interests me. Thanks in advance!

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