This is off my usual track, but it’s my blog, so I’m free to do so.
I was lucky enough to have Colin in my writing critique group.
One of the ways to improve your writing is to exchange manuscripts with other people. By critiquing others’ work, and getting critiques on your own, you see what works and what doesn’t. (Strictly speaking, I should mention that the purpose of the critiques is not to improve the manuscript you just submitted, but to improve what you write in the future. You can’t do a huge amount to fix what you’ve already written.)
A good critique group is a weird thing. You want your critiquers to like what you’ve written. But you want them to assault your work with everything they have, point out every deficiency, and push you to make you better. The closest comparison I can make is to a martial arts school, where you help your partners improve even as you smack the crap out of them, being friendly and kind and forceful simultaneously. In a successful writing group, you develop unique friendships, even with people you don’t know. Colin was one of those friends.
I joined my current writing group at the beginning of 2007. Colin was a member. In the years since, Colin simultaneously beat the living crap out of my work and supported me as a writer. My work dramatically improved, thanks in large part to his efforts. (Not to discount the other crit group members; they’ve all been invaluable. Even Rob.)
I still have a copy of every message that has passed through the writing group since I joined. Rather than just say what a tragedy his loss is, I thought it might be more meaningful to extract some of what he said about writing and offer it here. It’s gauche to repost semi-private conversations, of course. I don’t believe Colin would mind these particular clips. He had a fantastic sense of humor, openly documented his life on his blog, and said all of this about my work on a mailing list archived on Yahoo Groups.
i ) To move the plot along
ii) To set a scene or to
iii) Illuminate the character(s) in it
I could go on, and on, and on, but I’ve spent hours on this. And Colin would tell me to get back to writing my own work.
Colin never stopped improving his work. And he never stopped improving mine, either. He recently wrote novels that he hadn’t had time to finish marketing. I want to see both Black Death and Ultramassive in print. The latter is cool SF, and the former scared the crap out of me.
Colin left the writing group earlier this year, but he and I agreed to continue exchanging manuscripts in a less public forum. By sheer chance, we agreed to take a hiatus in August — we both had big family projects underway. If he’d spent the last month of his life reviewing my
sewage work instead of spending time with his family, I’d feel pretty bad. If I’d still owed him a crit when he passed, I’d feel ghastly.
Colin spent his last days with people more important to him than myself. And that’s how it should have been.Stalk me on social media