This is a follow up to my first blog post on writing groups. I had a powerful experience recently, testimony that the growth process continues; if I start to think I’m seasoned and have nothing new to learn about writing groups, I’ll be wrong.
After a dozen years of dedicated writing group participation, I started a new group that would be a second writing group for me, fully fantasy / fantasy sci fi. We spoke ahead of time and established four members. Side note: One of the members was a lawyer. She made a point that she attends “writing groups” of a sort all the time with her fellow lawyers so she’s very used to the practice.
When I got my Word document back from her with tracked changes, before our first meeting, every line—I mean every line—had a remark. Every facet was objected to. None of the comments were regarding style or sentence structure. There were vehement objections to some aspects. Entirely different plot ideas were suggested in place of my story.
When we met, two members (mother and daughter) started brainstorming elements that would make a better story. The daughter, who works in animation in Southern California, offered that, if I have trouble with ideas, she has an unlimited supply.
After this, I felt great reluctance to offer up my writing to them again. In fact, I felt gut-punched and stymied. My ongoing writing group (seven years now) loved the story in general. I was 80 pages into the book with them.
What’s the answer? Well, I have a lot of faith in writing groups. Over the years, they have been a fabulous part of my process. I went back to my list and formed another group with two very discerning women. I did a complete overhaul of my book’s first chapters, cognizant of the issues raised by the first group. The new group is handling my work with a combination of compliments and suggestions on all levels.
You cannot come at a writer like a stampede. In the end, there was value to a couple of the first groups’ points. Some of their objections had been troubling me. But the critique was done wrong. For one thing, I don’t think any writer wants someone else to think of their story for them. Maybe I’m wrong.
Would I have made the major changes without the harsh catalyst? Hard to say. I’ve successfully engineered a revision of the underpinnings of the story that will reverberate through all the following pages.
Of course, I’ve encountered other discouraging personalities along the way. If the input is stopping my process, something has to change. I’ll leave a group and establish a new one. Nothing can stop my writing, but I can change the influences.
If it’s constructive and balanced, you’ll still be fired to work, and remain energized. If you’re thinking of trying out writing groups, don’t hesitate to email me, for advice, sympathy, or a pep talk. Send questions! I’m happy to answer them, in a blog post or directly.