I am so excited! Tomorrow I get to pick a winner for my "A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words" prose contest!!! :) And now to answer questions: All of them are from Carrie this time! :) Thanks for asking them!
Question One: How do you come up with ideas for your stories/where do you get your ideas?
Usually my ideas come to me when I'm doing something terribly mundane- the idea for The Seasonings popped into my head while doing dishes. Puddleby Lane evolved while doing gardening! :) But generally it begins with a rather vague idea. For instance, the Seasonings started when I thought, "Wouldn't it be funny to have a family all named after herbs?" and then it just took off. Sometimes I choose a time period I want to write in, and then look up popular names back then, choose one for my main character, and then brainstorm what sort of a story he/she would be in the middle of. :) I think "Puddleby Lane" came from the word "Cottleston Pie" which was in a riddle in the Winnie-the-Pooh books. I just love that word! But since I didn't want to run into copyright issues, I sought out a name that rolled off the tongue just as well. :) And then of course a name like that has a lot of personality and must be rather quaint, and so on.
Question Two: About critique groups: how do you find one you like, with standards you want, and does it cost anything to join?
My critique group is a Yahoo! group run by author Diana Sharples. You can visit it here: I'm afraid I can't give you a lot of tips on how to find a group, because this group was suggested to me by a friend who knew a girl in the group. I am blessed that this is a group of writers writing Christian fiction for young adults. Of course I don't agree with everything everyone else writes, but the boldly declared purpose of this group is to write to the glory of Christ, and to honor God in all our writing--and since this is Christian fiction, it's cool to see everyone weave their stories to the point that their characters come to Christ, strengthen their relationship with Him, etc. Once accepted, the group does not cost anything to join except time, which dribbles into the next question:
Question Three: Also, does it demand a certain amount of your time, or do you have to commit to anything to join?
The critique group does demand a bit of time. You must critique at least one other person's chapter each week so that you may post one of your own chapters every Monday. Preferably more than one critique so each member gets plenty of help with their stories. Also, you must edit your chapter for spelling, grammar, etc. before posting it on the website. After all, this is not precisely an editing group. It's a group that helps you with those mistakes, but is also there as a sounding board for ideas, to provide advice on pacing, plot, dialog, etc.
It took me a little while to get into the flow of the group, but Diana does a great job of leading it so it's not that confusing. :)
You are expected to be involved in the group, as in critiquing, posting your chapters, etc. But you can also take leave from writing for awhile if need be.
I am not sure how most critique groups work--if we're the norm, or if we're amazingly better than others. ;) It's really impacted my writing, to be involved in this group. And I've met some great people, including Angela! :)
So if you can find a group you like, I'd encourage you to join it and learn what you can. Hope this answered your questions, Carrie! :) -Rachel