Sunday, August 22, 2010

Writers Groups

To writers group or not to writers group, that is the question. I have my answer. Yes, but ...

Large writers groups are, in my view, to be avoided at all costs unless ...

To join a writers group is a personal choice. Steve Berry has been with the same writers group of four since he started writing seriously, and, even after becoming an international bestseller, stays with the same group under the philosophy, “Dance with the date who took you.”

I like that philosophy.

Stephen King, on the other hand, doesn’t belong to a group, but has a number of people he trusts to look at his work when he decides to open the office door. His wife is the number one person in that bunch. His “ideal reader.”

I like that philosophy as well.

I’m using both, and it is working for me.

My initial exposure to writers groups came when I joined one of the largest in the country. Its leanest times during my tenure boasted a membership of forty, its strongest, just a shade under a hundred. The advantages seem obvious, particularly when a number of those writers are published several times over. I confess that I goo-goo eyed a lot of those folks, and I got a lot out of it. I learned a lot about the industry, at least from their point of view.

The disadvantage is the same, a lot of different perspectives. For the most part, people in the group wanted you to do well. Others not so much. Many offered critique. Some offered outright criticism with smiles on their faces. Having been on the board of this group, I was privy to a number of conversations, and one that made my jaw drop was how one of these fine and lovely folks bragged about how his comments drove away a new member of the group.

“Hey, if they can’t take the heat, they need to get out of the kitchen.”

I’ll buy that, but there is the natural heat of the kitchen, and then there is arson. And this “gentleman” and a couple of others were pyromaniacs. After having driven home, delicate confidence totally shot a few times, I started to see what was happening and ignored most of their criticism. I don’t believe in stealing someone’s dream. The industry itself will determine whether someone should or should not be published. It doesn’t need any help.

I may have mentioned this in previous blogs, but I believe very much in critique and not at all in criticism when it comes to writers groups.

Critique is when you say, “This isn’t working and here’s how to fix it.” An example would be, “Your lead character isn’t sympathetic early on. You can give him a lot of sympathy by giving him a dog and show him petting it.”

Criticism is when you say, “I don’t like your main character. I’d never buy a book about a guy like that.”

Thank you for sharing.

Chances are high that both types are available in large groups. Ultimately, there will be five or six you really connect with.

Now, the ideal group is the one I currently belong to, big surprise. We are five who connected. We call ourselves The Writerie, and consist of Kat Goldring, author of the delightful Willi Gallagher mysteries (see the cover above), Glenna, Shirley, Jane and myself. We have the advantages of the larger group in that we all have knowledge we can share with the others, but without the meanness of the large group. We’re supportive, and believe strongly in critique, not criticism.

Criticism comes when the book is published.

We meet twice a month and read our work-in-progress to each other. And trust me on this. When I’m on the bestseller list, I’ll still be making my twice monthly sessions to The Writerie. These folks are SOOOO good to me and SOOOO supportive of me, that if I don’t get published it will be my fault. I hope I’m that way for them. I certainly want each of them to be on the bestseller list.

I’ll be talking more of these wonderful writers later on and at various times. Add to that my amazing friend Dawn, a brilliant writer I also want to see on the bestseller list. She has her own group and lives in Edmonton, but the two of us routinely swap pages and tell each other when we’re brilliant and why, and when we’re not-so-brilliant and what we can do to make it better. In other words, critique.

I’m also a big fan of the RIGHT online writing class. More on that next week. :-)

I’m now 85 pages into luck draft 13 of Catch a Falling Star. And I’m looking to make a lot more progress this week.

Thanks for the indulgence last entry. I do appreciate it. So here’s the update. On August 1st, I weighed 285. On the 8th, I 280. On the 15th, 276. So much for the water weight. Now is when it gets tough. I have to stay focused.

I’ll let you know next week how I did.

1 comment:

  1. Rock,
    I'd take the smaller group on a deserted island a n y time, we'd be more likely to survive as a group than the larger one.
    I liked your 'arson' analogy, well said.
    Seems like this is a positive week for you all around. Kudos :-)