Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: critique group

Monday Morning — Ouch!

I am doing my best to be good when it comes to the blog this morning. Good in that I am blogging. Good in that I am trying to keep it short because I have a ton of work to get through today. Good in that my friends Sarah A. Hoyt and Dave Freer have done much better jobs than I can in discussing the attacks on Kate Paulk and the fans who have decided they wanted a voice in the Hugo Awards. Good in that I already know what my Mad Genius Club post will be tomorrow.

So what am I going to blog about? That’s a good question because, at the moment, my brain is filled with edits for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). Then there is Dagger of Elanna, the follow-up to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). The plot is solidifying in my mind — which is a good thing. Not so good is it wants to be written NOW! It doesn’t care that I need to finish Honor nor does it care that I still need to write a somewhat coherent blog post.

So I am going to pull inspiration from my critique group.

One of our members is a great guy. He is new to the craft and is trying hard. In the time he has been with us, I’ve seen him improve by leaps and bounds. But, as with every writer who takes their craft seriously, he knows he still needs to improve in some areas. He doesn’t let it get him down, at least not for long, and he asks questions, takes notes and thinks about what we tell him.

The thing is, I worry that he doesn’t get that he has real potential. He has a story. There has never been any doubt about that. He isn’t one of those who come into a group with what is nothing more than fan fic without any of the serial numbers filed off. He gets, on an intuitive level, story structure. He simply has to learn the “rules” of writing and understand that a lot of his so-called issues can be handled by a good copy editor and proof reader.

Yesterday, we had a small group and only one item to critique. That gave us a lot of time to be able to just talk and brainstorm. More importantly, it gave me a chance to crawl into this gentleman’s brain and try to figure out why he is writing what he is. I’ve felt from the beginning that he is trying to write in a genre he isn’t all that familiar with. I’m convinced of it after our conversation yesterday. His reasons are valid and I even understand them. But they all come down to one basic thing: he isn’t confident enough in his abilities as a storyteller to write in the genre he really enjoys reading.

He isn’t confident enough that he can come up with a plot that fits the action suspense mode he likes.

And I so identify with what he is feeling. I sat on both the Honor and Duty (2 Book Series) as well as Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1) because I was afraid I didn’t have the ability as a writer to carry them off. Hell, let’s be honest, I didn’t let anyone see my writing for a very long time because I didn’t have any confidence in my ability as a storyteller. So I fully understand where my critique partner is coming from.

If it weren’t for Sarah Hoyt (and later Kate Paulk whom she brought in as backup), I would probably still be writing and shoving my work under the bed. Now I need to remember how it felt when they started pulling me into the light of day, so to speak. I hope I can be as good a friend and mentor for this gentleman in my group as Kate and Sarah have been to me. I hope I can find the right words and examples to give him to keep him interested and motivated. He has the foundation already, something a lot of folks who want to write don’t start with. The rest is stuff he can learn or hire someone to deal with after the story is written.

I guess this is all a roundabout way of saying that, as writers, we need to believe in ourselves. We need to trust our guts and give ourselves permission to write crap because that crap will act as fertilizer for better work.


(Some of you know that I am part of a critique group that meets twice a month at the local library. At our last meeting, I set a writing exercise for everyone. There was a list of words we had to choose 5 from and the story was to be a Christmas story with a twist. Word count was to be between 500 – 1000 words. The purpose was to get each of us out of our ruts and try something different. FuzzyFluffs was my contributions, written in about 20 minutes this morning. Very rough and, of course, no one can copy or use without permission. Hope you enjoy.)


Even now, after all these years, it’s hard to remember that it wasn’t all a dream. No, a nightmare. Christmas is supposed to be a time when young boys and girls scamper downstairs, all wide-eyed wonder. It should be a time of comfort and love, of wonder and delight, not one of fear and death.

Maybe I should start at the beginning. No, this isn’t one of those “once upon a time” moments some of us remember from our childhoods. This is more a “don’t look under your bed” or “beware of looking at comets in the night”. It is a cautionary tale and one you would be wise to listen to. Why? Because there are too few of us left and it is our duty to continue the fight. We may still fall, just as so many others have, but we will do so with our heads held high. We shall not be lambs led to the slaughter, at least not without showing these lambs have teeth.

Nothing warned of what was about to happen. The holiday season had been in full swing since before Thanksgiving. Each year, it seemed as though retailers put out their decorations and started playing Christmas carols earlier and earlier. Then there were the sales. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Pretty soon, every day of the week would have its own special title.

And no one realized that the sales really weren’t. Retailers raised prices just so they could lower them and all to make everyone feel like they had saved more money on all those presents they had to buy.

That year’s shopping started much as every year’s before it. I won’t lie. I procrastinated and time was growing short if I was going to get it all done before beginning the yearly trip to visit Mom and Dad, not to mention weird Uncle Buck. Just one more gift to buy and then all I’d need to do was pack the car and head out. So simple and the warmth of the South called. All I had to do was find that special gift to have under the tree come Christmas morning for my youngest nephew.

What I didn’t know was just how “special” that gift happened to be. None of us did. Every adult who scoured the stores, searched the online retailers and bid with virtual fingers crossed on sites like Ebay thought we were buying the latest fad. Oh, collectors would find a way to try to corner the market, keeping those cute little talking critters in their boxes where human hands would never soil them and their value would increase. At least they would try. But they would fail, at least when it came to keeping the FuzzyFluffs in their boxes.

FuzzyFluffs. Advertised to keep your children entertained for hours. They walked and talked and ate and pooped and did just about everything except clean house. At least that’s what the ads said. You remember those ads, right? Dancing furballs with glowing eyes and expressions that kids adored but adults felt vaguely uneasy about.

And every kid seemed to want one.

We were fools. Gullible fools blinded by the desire to make the children in our lives happy. We paid small fortunes for the foot tall FuzzyFluffs. We filled out their “adoption papers” and sent them off. Some of us even did it early enough to have the paperwork returned so it could be framed as het another Christmas present for our little loved ones. We bought the mp3s of songs by the FuzzyFluffs, annoying though their voices might be. It didn’t matter. It was for the kids.

The kids. They loved us that Christmas morning so long ago as they tore away the shiny paper and tossed aside the ribbon. Their eyes lit up with joy to see their own special FuzzyFluff. There were hugs, if we were lucky, and then the batteries were put in, special batteries that only had to be recharged once a decade. And thus began our downfall.

No one told us to read the fine print. Even if we had, we wouldn’t have understood it. I know. I looked later, after it became apparent that trouble was afoot. The multi-page instruction booklet with its different languages had a final page with something printed so small a magnifying glass did little to make it legible. What was written there was nothing like I’d ever seen before. It looked like something written in an alien script. Odd symbols and characters with no rhyme or reason that any of us could discern. Thus began our downfall.

Now, so many years later, we know what those odd symbols and characters mean. They were a warning, an omen of things to come. Those FuzzyFluffs that were such the rage were more than mere toys, much more. They were the attempt by some now long-forgotten toy maker to help teach our children in “fun and inventive” ways. FuzzyFluffs were dedicated to their children – their children, no longer ours. Those adoption papers made it so, at least in the eyes of the FuzzyFluffs.

Now we march to the tune of FuzzyFluff Love, a tune so annoying it makes the Barney theme song from my childhood look like a Mozart concerto. We have learned to never raise our voices, much less our hands, to our children for fear of facing FuzzyFluff wrath. For you see, those cute, cuddly twelve inch tall fuzzy buddies are now eight foot tall monsters with a taste for adult human flesh.

Oh yes, FuzzyFluffs are carnivores and we are their cattle. But we are watchful cattle, counting the days until their batteries die down and we can pull the plug. If only we can live so long.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén