This week, I had the chance to go to New York City to visit some writing friends from the Catholic Writers' Guild, Ann Lewis and Lisa Mladinich. We'd become good IM buddies, and I was thrilled to get to meet them face to face before I moved halfway across the country. We had a real writers' holiday.
On the flight up, I critiqued Ann's latest mystery. It was more of a character-driven story, with the mystery tossed in the middle that helps him answer his own personal crisis, but somehow, the mystery hadn't achieved its purpose. I got an idea for restructure and wrote it down just as we were landing.
Ann picked me up and on the way to Lisa's house, we talked about my idea. It might work, but still had some flaws, these of a more theological nature-the mystery involves the famous Fr. Brown--so we decided to bring it up to the writer's group Lisa was hosting. In the meantime, Ann noted a flaw in my mystery novel. While the book was a lot of fun, there was no immediate threat to give the book some depth. "Why should I, the reader, care?" Ann explained. I'd sensed the same thing, but had dismissed it as asking too much of the plot. Now the doubts came back.
At the writer's group, we met some wonderful ladies. There were poets, children's book writers, illustrators and even a bookstore owner. We shared our stories, played with verse, and exclaimed over the illustrations. Ann's plot problem was brought up and soon we had a new organization that looked promising. I shared some of the other stories and background of Dragon Eye, PI, and in doing so, came up with my plot complication--and yes, it's so cliche'! Just like the Faerie. I gave a copy of ISIG to the bookstore owner, with some marketing ideas for it, and even sold a copy to another lady in the group.
After everyone had left, Lisa, Ann and I started our brainstorming session for a Catholic cartoon we'd been working on. Later, when Ann had to get home, Lisa and I chatted about books and writing and life (isn't it all one in the same?). I told her my Miscria plot and told her daughter my Witch Androvitch stories. She told me more about her book (Catholic paranormal romance--it's GOOD!), her puppets and her hopes for the Catholic cartoon. We talked about prayer and needing to ask God to guide us in our writing.
The next day, Ann returned, bringing her 3-year-old son, and while he played in the backyard and amazed us with his wit and intelligence, we got the majority of a pilot episode hammered out. There's a real energy from discussing something in person. Would we ever had fallen so in love with Gus the Caterpillar if we hadn't been able to see Ann pinch her glasses and lift them ever so slightly with a funny half smile as she acted out Gus in a moment of discovery? Would Lisa have come up with her lovely song if we hadn't been discussing different hymns? We decided we need to try to meet at least once a year.
As I flew home, I found myself refreshed and inspired. What a great couple of days.
We sometimes think writing is a solitary experience, but there's an energy in working with others that cannot be denied.