Getting my writing back on track has not been easy.

When I learned back in March that Paper Hearts had made the Golden Heart® Finals, I kept going on my work in progress, Bathtub Jinn,  for a few days, largely because I was in the middle of a love scene.  Those don’t come easily to me, and I didn’t want to leave one unfinished.  So I toiled away over my notebook for a few evenings until the scene came to its logical conclusion.

Then I decided I’d better read through Paper Hearts again, in case an agent or editor asked for it.  That took me through the middle of April.  Surely I was entitled to a little break, although by then I’d started blogging–that should count for something, shouldn’t it?  Maybe it does, but it isn’t getting Bathtub Jinn finished.

So yesterday, when I had a day off, I typed up the languishing love scene, updated my scene chart, and printed those pages out.  160 pages, 41,000 words, half a novel.  My critique group met last night, so I printed out the next run of pages for that: pages 121 through 127.  Oops–if I don’t get this manuscript moving again, my critique group will catch up with it.

Many of my romance-writing friends critique with other romance writers, which has its obvious advantages and often works extremely well.  I can point to more than one local group that has managed to get all its members published over the years.  But I belong to a small mixed group–none of us write the same genre–and that has advantages as well.

Barbara Ewing, the only other woman in our group of five, is a mystery writer at heart (her novel Till Murder Do Us Part is available at Amazon), but she also writes short stories and is currently working on a biographical project about her mother, an aviatrix back in the day when pilots of any description were unusual.  She’s our sharp-eyed line editor, and a terrier when it comes to rooting out cliches.

Carl Miller writes mainstream fiction, and has published two books (Belize and Panama) based on his family background in Central America and two (Stroke and French Quarter Danny) about the world of competitive pool.  He’s great at keeping track of plots and watching for those potholes our characters sometimes drive themselves into (even if he does insist that the black cat in my current story is really an orange tabby).  Carl’s been working on and off on a philosophical project, but he hesitates to read it to us because we start arguing about the content instead of the writing.

Jim Stanton writes elegant tales often set in his home state of Indiana, spooky and atmospheric, with a bit of Bradbury and a touch of King, and in his current project a whole lot of Lovecraft.  He’s very good at asking why our characters do whaqt they do, particularly in those embarassing spots when the only answer is, “Well, I thought it made sense when I wrote it.”

Our non-fiction writer is Charles Russell, whose biography of Elise Waerenskold, a Norwegian woman who settled in Texas in the 1840s, was published in 2006.  He’s now working on a biography of Elise’s husband.  Charles always opens his remarks with, “Now, this is only my opinion,” and then gives us all spot-on suggestions.

We try to meet every other Monday night (Jim travels for business, Carl covers pool tournaments for several magazines, Charles is retired and travels for fun), as we have been for the last few years, and we’ve seen several manuscripts through to completion.  We each have strengths to contribute and lessons to learn.

And I figure if I can entertain this diverse group with a romance, I’m doing something right.

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