So, what's new.
I think I'm getting spoiled. I keep reading books and sometimes afterwards I sit up and say, 'well, that was fun.' Or 'that was disappointing.' 'Cute.' 'Not quite there, should have done another rewrite,' is another common one.
I am thinking about how long it's been since I read a book and sat up and said, 'Yes. Yes yes yes!' And I'm wondering if I've just been reading all the wrong books, or if there really is a dearth at the moment.
I just read Neil Gaiman's Coraline, and then The Graveyard. I think that's as close as I've come in a long time. I like it that Gaiman's not afraid to be creepy- the button eyes in Coraline certainly qualify. And I like his characters. They had of course much more chance to develop in The Graveyard, and there were many more of them. I thought the owner of the pawn shop where Bod tried to sell the brooch was really creepy. I liked Scarlet- and yes, I spotted Mr. Frost, but I loved him anyway, well, as a character. Wouldn't want to eat dinner with him.
I don't think Gaiman made it clear enough what the Jacks were up to; I can't see that what they were defending was worth all the effort- actually, I'm having trouble figuring out what they were defending at all. Or some how even what they were. I don't mean we need an explanation for everything, but these holy wars are apparently being fought on a large scale, and over thousands of years, if there are that many Jacks around (or were.)
Is it just the five (now four) 'good guys' that are fighting? Silas, Miss Lupescue (probably spelled that wrong) the Mummy and whatsit? Did there used to be more? Against how many Jacks? How did the Jacks get started? Perhaps it will click when I re-read. In the meantime, I give Coraline and The Graveyard both a slightly qualified 'yes.'
And the rest of the world? I am attempting to join a new critique group. I know that a good critique group can be helpful. I know this because in my last group, there were some people who really had insights and made my work better (and beat me over the head with sticks until I stopped resisting :o)
I'm a little bit concerned now, because even though I told the woman who set up the group that I would like to exchange manuscripts *and* critiques before we started, we only sort of did that half way, and I think it may have been a mistake. There is a person in the group who critiques by telling other people how to write their stuff. I tried to point this out (in my usual extremely tactful fashion, ha ha.) and she got pretty angry. She says otherwise the critiques are wishy washy, vague, useless... I explained how "I think you should have your character pour a bucket of paint on the cat" is not the same as "Your character needs to do something much naughtier in order for the parents to punish her like that, otherwise the parents seem cruel and draconian." And why I thought the latter would be much more productive, and also how wrong I would feel about using an idea that isn't mine anyway, but I didn't get a lot of response from anyone.
We'll see how this group continues. The other two women seem cool. I just have the feeling that the critter from hell, let's call her, has some other agenda, and keeps trying to pull the group in a direction that suits her (like subbing every week, or this arbitrary 4 day turn around time.. don't remember discussing that. must have been in the fine print...) but don't necessarily suit anyone else in the group.
So. Now, after three years in my local scbwi chapter we are actually about to have our first meeting. Another person in the group has expressed interest in forming a critique group. I'm not sure how many writers there are- I have the impression that most are illustrators, but we'll see what comes of it. If there are enough writers to form a critique group in theory, it will still be a question of whether or not we are suited as to level of experience and development, level of, well, dare I say it, intelligence, style, and not least, temperament.
Wish me luck, Bloglanders.