IWSG—Some odds and sods


The Insecure Writer’s Support Group meets the first Wednesday of each month. Participants share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/finish a story?

When there was still an APP-certified piercer in my area, I liked going for a piercing to reward myself. I got my third lobe piercings done after I finished Journey Through a Dark Forest, and I got my navel done for finishing the first 50K of NaNo in 2015.

Sadly, I had to retire my navel piercing 8.5 months later, due to obvious, advanced rejection. It was healing beautifully, and my very honest piercer said I had the perfect navel to pierce (since it had a great shelf to support it), but I suspect my increasing weight gain started the rejection process.

I’ve lost at least 30 pounds since last June, and am almost back to the weight I was when I had my navel done. I’ll definitely be getting it repierced in the autumn or winter! When I’m back in an area with an APP piercer, I’ll resume getting piercings to mark writing goals.

My awesome piercer pointed me towards this purple opal navel bar, since he knew purple is my signature color. The redness has been replaced by white scar tissue.

I spent February focusing on A Dream Deferred, my fourth Russian historical, and am now nearing the final sections of Chapter 38. After the longer than average Chapter 33, my chapters were short and mid-length (by my standards), and now Chapter 38 is on the long side again.

I need to get back to my alternative history, and I plan to divide my writing time between that and A Dream Deferred. If only I didn’t have to go to a library to get most of my writing done. I keep hoping I’ll be out of this place by summer, with my privacy and independence restored.

Obviously, these initial chapter-by-chapter notes are just a working outline. I’ve added many more chapters, storylines, and characters since making these notes in summer 2015.

I think I’ve given up on the biweekly writing group that meets at various local libraries. I felt like I were intruding on an established gang of friends, and no one really talked to me. The critiques are also rather superficial, since people make comments during the meetings instead of annotating the work and sending it back. There’s no chance to give a full, honest critique of any submissions.

Some of them need an editor or experienced critique partner more than praise and light corrections from friends. One guy complained about a woman who only came to one meeting and critiqued everyone’s grammar, punctuation, etc., and someone else said that was nitpicky and should be saved for an editor.

If you don’t have a grasp on basic grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, etc., I can’t focus on the actual story. I can overlook, e.g., problems with comma usage, its vs. it’s, or the occasional run-on or awkward wording if the overall story is strong, but that’s not the case here.

I miss my writing group back in NY, which meets weekly, welcomes new people, knows how to critique properly, and has real conversations between sprints.

Would you quit going to a writing group if you didn’t click with it?


RSW Tenth Update

Behold, my gorgeous new rook piercing! Contrary to what the picture depicts, the gems are much bluer, and my third lobe is actually blue, not green. I handled my first-ever cartilage piercing like a boss.


Ready. Set. Write! is a summer-long initiative hosted by Alison MillerKaty UppermanElodie NowodazkijJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk. Each week, participants post brief updates under five headings.

  • How I did on last week’s goal(s)

I took a detour and finished planning/plotting my fourth Russian historical. I began chapter-by-chapter notes in March, when I thought I’d be starting it for April Camp NaNo, but only planned nine chapters. I now have four and a half pages, 50 working chapters, and a stronger sense of the major storylines. For some reason, I completely forgot about the Korean War while plotting, even though three of my characters are in the Navy. Luckily, I found out there wasn’t a very big Naval role in the war anyway.


I also began the cast of characters, table of contents, and glossary. For the glossary and cast list, it’s mostly copying and pasting from the Dark Forest file, though some character IDs change from book to book. For example, someone may now be a husband, not a mere love interest; someone may be introduced in a different capacity; or someone may have a different surname or nickname.

On my WIP, I did write about 2,000 words.

  • My goal(s) for this week

Go back to my WIP, now that I’ve done the bulk of preparing for my fourth Russian historical.

  • A favorite line from my story OR a word or phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised

This new character in the cast list, waiting patiently to be written into existence:

Dragomir Mechislavovich Obolenskiy, Vasilisa’s love interest and a prince by birth, born December 1919

Isn’t that just such a romantic Russian name? At first I only wanted to give Vasilisa (Ivan’s much-younger cousin, born January 1924) a husband with an older, less-common name like hers, but then I was moved to make him a real prince. Vasilisa’s father is a deposed prince himself, thus making Vasilisa a morganatic princess.

  • The biggest challenge I faced this week

Coming up with working titles for all 50 of the currently planned chapters. Some of them are just boring placeholders, like “Unchanged Situation” and “Another Strained School Year.” When I actually start writing it in November, I’ll be changing some of these dull working titles. Right now, not enough of them are inspired by song lyrics or literature, and don’t sound very serious or literary.

  • Something I love about my WIP

I do love some of the chapter titles I came up with, like “The Ivory Ceiling,” “The House of Kalvik Under Siege,” and “The Streets of the Future.” The lattermost title actually comes from the opening line in The Who’s “Why Did I Fall for That,” a song I rather dislike but thought would be appropriate inspiration given the era. The song prominently features the Doomsday Clock, which is at 3 minutes to midnight for most of the book.



Since A Dream Deferred is set from 1948–52, and Katrin spends January–August 1950 in Japan, I’d like to use bomb-inspired titles for Parts I and II. I’m thinking Fission and Fallout, Hypocenter and Epicenter, Bright Light and Black Rain, or Pika (Flash) and Don (Boom). Any strong opinions on which are best? I think the Epilogue will be titled “Red Canna Flowers,” after the miraculous flowers which started blooming 10 days after Hiroshima was destroyed. These flowers represented hope and courage to the survivors, and helped them to heal and rebuild their lives.

Copyright Rexness from Melbourne, Australia; Source Cannas

I’ve also begun thinking I should change the name of Katrin’s husband from Sandros to Sandro, which thus means his real name would become Aleksander. (He’s Estonian, not Russian, so the name wouldn’t take the Russian spelling.) I think what happened when I created him in 1999 was that I subconsciously remembered Nicholas II’s brother-in-law Sandro, only I misremembered his name. Does Sandro or Sandros sound better to you? I can’t find any evidence of Sandros being used as a name or nickname outside of my own character, and I’m such a stickler for onomastic accuracy and outlier names being within the realm of plausibility.