Tag Archives: writing group

The Inklings: One Friendship to Bind Them

When it comes to famous friendships, the one that first comes to mind is the bond between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Their friendship developed through their writing group, The Inklings, which met in a pub called The Eagle and Child, or as they affectionately called it, The Bird and Baby. Over years of critiquing and beers, a number of the Inklings went on to be published, as well as become some of the most respected authors in history.

In college, I was fortunate enough to take a J.R.R. Tolkien class from one of the most renowned C.S. Lewis scholars in the world, Diana Glyer. Naturally her studies of Lewis led her to the study of Tolkien as well. Diana Glyer recently released the book Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings, which focuses on the relationships, successes, and pitfalls of the group. No one else that I know of, save for Christopher Tolkien, knows The Inklings like my former professor Diana Glyer. She’s devoted much of her life to passionately researching them.

Thanks to her book, I gathered some important points that you may want to keep in mind when it comes to your own career and the company you keep.

  1. There were 19 Inklings total, and they met for 17 years!
  2. The Inklings greatly encouraged one another, even going so far as writing publishers to encourage the publishers to publish one another’s books.
  3. While they encouraged one another, the group members fought and criticized just as easily and often.
  4. Tolkien didn’t like The Chronicles of Narnia when Lewis brought in the first pages to The Eagle and Child. Not even a little.
  5. However, not everyone was crazy about The Lord of the Rings either, namely Hugo Dyson.

These points stood out to me because of the group’s commitment to one another, even though they did not always agree. They fought for one another, encouraged one another, and did what they could for the others.

Sometimes we may get a little tired of our writing groups and wonder what the point of it all is. But just remember: a few men would meet in a pub not so long ago, and some of them might’ve had the same thoughts. But their commitment to their craft and commitment to the group didn’t waver.

Throughout the book, Diana also observes how the reader can shape their writing group to be successful. She outlines what was successful in the Inkling collective, and how to make your group dynamically your own while avoiding some of The Inklings’ nasty pitfalls.

I’d highly recommend picking up the book if you’re in a writing group and you’d like to learn lessons from some of the most well-known authors in history.

Meet the Fictorians: Guy Anthony De Marco

“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man!” -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

We’d love for you, our wonderful readers, to get to know us better. That’s why, each month, Kristin Luna will interview a member of The Fictorians. We’ll learn more about each member, such as their writing processes, their work, where they live, and what they prefer to drink on a crisp winter day. We hope you enjoy this monthly installment of Meet the Fictorians.

Meet the Fictorians:

Guy Anthony De Marco

Kristin Luna (KL): Hi Guy! How are you doing and what are you drinking today?

Guy Anthony De Marco (GADM): Coffee. Lots of coffee. Coffee with coffee on top. It’s a good thing I’m not a single-malt Scotch drinker because I’d be spilling my glass of Glenfiddich 40-year old single malt all over the carpet because of the caffeine jitters.

Sometimes I toss in an Irish Breakfast tea to mix things up, or I drink the really hard stuff — egg nog.

KL: Oo, Glenfiddich. I like Balvenie myself. Don’t even get me started on egg nog. Yum! Okay, back on subject… You’ve been a Fictorian for quite some time. When did you join, and could you tell the fine people what all do you do for us?

GADM: I was invited by Quincy J. Allen (link: http://www.quincyallen.com) to write a couple of articles a few years ago, and then I woke up months later and I was a member. Since then, I write the occasional article, post a comment or two, and poke around the back end of the website. I’m familiar and comfortable doing so because I have over three decades in the Information Technology field. I’m not the site admin, but I do keep a watch on things and install updates, plus the little things such as dumping the spam out of the comments. We get over 50 spam comments a day, so that’s a sign the site is spreading. If only the spammers purchased books, we’d all be millionaires. Or at least hundredaires.

I’m also the unofficial “I need a post by tonight” guy. If you see several posts with my byline, odds are there were spots that needed an article. I write fast, and I’m now even working with Dragon Dictate, which helped me to hit my NaNoWriMo 2016 goal in two days.

KL: Not only do you help us out with our website, you are downright prolific when it comes to how much writing you produce. When you’re working on a project, how many words do you average a day, and in a week?

GADM: I have a bunch of pseudonyms I write under, so they all need to be fed. I think my record was 48K words in 12 hours. My usual rate is 2.5K/day on a slow day to 6K/day on a “looming deadline” day. Dragon is boosting those numbers lately, but the first drafts are pretty horrific to look at. Between drafting and editing, it all balances out in the end.

KL: I’m in awe, really. So what’s some of the best advice you’ve received about being productive? What works for you that you could pass on to the rest of us?

GADM: I guess the best advice is just doing the basics. Place your buttocks in a comfy chair and write so it becomes a habit. Understand that your first draft is not a polished manuscript. Allow yourself to suck and tell the editor in your head that she will get her turn later after you’ve dumped the basics onto the digital page. That last piece worked the best for me as far as productivity.

KL: You’ve written short stories for anthologies along with long fiction. What’s your favorite short story you’ve written, what’s it about, and where can we buy it?

GADM: My favorite short story is “Sally the Baker” from the early 1980s. It’s long out of print, although I’m thinking about reworking the story. The original is about a group of adventurers who force a gent named Sally to join their quest to take on an evil wizard. Unfortunately, Sally is an amazing baker with no other skills. In the end, he does save the day when they burst into a high-level evil wizard conference and Sally tosses a handful of flour into the air and starts screaming “Death Dust!” at the top of his lungs. The wizards scatter, the adventurers recover the item they were looking for, and they all escape with their hides.

For a still-available short story, I’d recommend “Grubstake” from Supernatural Colorado or “The Fate Worse Than Death” in Unidentified Funny Objects 3, which I co-wrote with Kevin J. Anderson.

KL: You have a number of titles available on Amazon. Do you find that you like writing short fiction or long fiction better?

GADM: I like writing drabbles or flash fiction best because it takes a lot of work to hit the word count, especially the 100-word drabbles. It’s like writing poetry for me, which I dabble in. As far as prose, I like short and long fiction equally. I write novels like a collection of short stories. That’s how I outline long works…a series of short stories in a tight flying formation.

KL: What are you currently working on?

GADM: I’m in the midst of NaNoWriMo at the moment. I hit my 50K in a couple of days. My record is over 300K. I have a cyberpunk novel in work, plus two horror novels and a bunch of erotica novellas. I’m trying to get 20 erotica works done to launch a new pseudonym.

KL: Ambitious! Who are some authors that inspire you?

GADMTonya L. De Marco is always helping me by editing and finding more stories to write. Kevin J. Anderson inspires me to write more because he is almost at the point where he thinks of a story and it magically appears on paper. Sam Knight inspires me to treat others with respect and kindness. I also enjoy reading lots of classics from Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, and the rest of the usual gang — plus digging up old pulps and enjoying forgotten speculative fiction authors.

KL: Yeah, that Sam Knight is good people! Other than advice on productivity, what advice have you received through your years of writing that has stuck with you?

GADMFind a group of like-minded individuals and work together, like a local writing collective. Seek out folks who know how to edit and are not afraid to tell you what works and what sucks. Find beta readers and treat them like gold. Always be nice to others, even if they’re not. Especially if they’re not…they need to see how a professional acts. Support everyone and never talk down or bad-mouth anyone. It’s easy to pick on authors, such as Stephenie Meyer, who wrote Twilight. I’ve been on several panels where they bash on her, but I always say she was laughing all the way to the bank. She wrote something that caught the attention of the reading public, and even though it’s not my cup of tea, it sold well and made her a household name. I’d like that to happen to me someday.

I would also recommend joining a professional writing organization. Some of them can help you on the way to greatness, sorta like Slytherin House. I’ve been impressed with what Cat Rambo has been doing with SFWA, so I’d suggest considering them first.

KL: And finally, what’s your favorite Fictorians post that you’ve written?

GADM: To be honest, I don’t particularly have a favorite. If I had to choose, I’d probably go with “Putting a Fresh Clip in My Revolver,” “My Muse is Dead,” or DMCA Tools. All of those generated some good feedback from Fictorians readers.

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If you have any questions for Guy, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

The Lesson Is: Never Try.

Simpsons TryI showed up to the writing group early, nervous and anxious and excited for the group to critique my work. I couldn’t wait for the other aspiring writers to “discover” my talent. I had felt driven to write for some time but hadn’t ever shared my craft. I was certain that I was the next big thing. If only people would read my stuff they would fall in love with it and me and I’d be golden.

I chuckle now at the memory. I had contacted a writing professor who referred me to a real-life published author (whose name somehow escapes me). She invited me to join an intimate writing group at a small monthly fee.

(At the time I didn’t know about free writing groups and networks and Superstars taught by real superstar published authors like Kevin freaking Anderson and James freaking Owen and many others).

I had presented the first three chapters of my work in progress, certain that they’d be begging for more. The group took the work home and returned with their critiques in hand. What came from the session was not what I expected.

Putting yourself out there for others to see can be scary especially if you care a lot about what others think. Unfortunately there are those that follow Homer Simpson’s advice to never try.

I have a friend that used to write. She’s got an incredible imagination and has developed some great plots. When more than one editor told her that her prose lacked structure and her characters needed deeper development she abandoned her efforts to get published.

I almost threw in the towel too.

As my writing group went around, one by one, dissecting my craft, I wanted to run away and hide. I regretted ever trying. It would have been far easier to remain a closet writer, telling myself that if only I were discovered, I’d be golden. Hiding behind mediocrity would have been much more comfortable than discovering that my perceptions were so very off base.

Good news is, I didn’t quit. As difficult as it was to look in the mirror, my writing lacked skill. I focused on the group’s advice and practiced. With time I started to see what they saw.

Later in my writing development I joined the Absolute Write Water Cooler. I couldn’t wait to be allowed to submit my writing for critique. How it works is, you post a part of your craft for the other members to see and critique, then you wait for the comments.

At first, I assumed that every member had mad writing skills and would try to be helpful. After receiving conflicting advice and disagreeing criticisms I grew confused and my writing suffered because of it. Eventually I stopped trying to please everyone online and instead relied more on folks that I knew to be great writers.

In summary, here is what I’ve learned about feedback, critiques, and criticisms:

Receiving:

  1. Have no fear; have no regrets.
  2. Feedback is a gift.
  3. Feedback can have a different value depending on who is giving it. If you take it in and it doesn’t jive, it’s okay to dismiss it. Take what’s helpful and leave the rest.
  4. If it’s right, do it. Practice.
  5. Don’t quit. I believe that if I keep at it, success is inevitable.

Giving:

  1. Only critique when invited to do so.
  2. Be kind, helpful, and honest.
  3. Be clear and specific. Examples can help.
  4. Encourage, support, and cheer because if they keep at it, success is inevitable.