Here’s what I haven’t told you about my writing group: I pretty much do it entirely online. I have two kids, one with autism, and a husband that works long hours. The very few writing groups here meet in the evening during the week so that’s pretty much out for me. I contacted someone about a posting of a local writing group and they agreed to allow me to do it by e-mail.
So today I met one of the writers, the one that posted the listing. I’d tell you her name but she might not like that so we’re going to call her Scribe.
Of course, it was a spur of the moment thing and it’s spring break here so I had to take my two unruly children to Barnes & Noble. All in all, it went well. When I could actually sit down and talk with Scribe instead of constantly going to the Starbucks counter for something, that is. Or when something wasn’t getting spilled. Or someone didn’t need to go to the potty. You get the idea, I’m sure.
Why is this something that is blog worthy, you ask? Because she’s the only one in the group (other than me, of course) that can write. Let me mention this again lest you think I’m tooting my own horn, here: I’m no Tolstoy.
But I don’t think I can’t write, either. If I did, I wouldn’t be writing. Obviously not everyone holds my view and really, some people just shouldn’t write.
Currently there are four of us. Two that are at the point where it’s decent (whether it’s good or not is another blog), one that is just very green and the other that thinks he’s just awesome (we’ll just call him Awesome, not to be confused with Captain Awesome from Chuck).
Now you may think that I’m going to say the green writer should be the one to quit writing. Absolutely not. Greenie is eager, loves it and wants to be better. Awesome, on the other hand, not so much. And truth be told, I don’t think anyone should quit writing. Continue and strive for better. Now you may ask what makes me thinking I can write any different from Awesome thinking he can write? Let me explain. If you’ve been told over and over about the ginormous technical problems with your writing and you can’t or won’t fix them, then you should be aware that you can’t write. It’s not a bad thing to hear you have problems in your writing, you learn from it and get better. Painful, yes; bad, no. Use the group to figure out how to be better, that’s how it works. Critiques, although difficult to go through, are not personal attacks. If you can’t separate yourself from that, then don’t join a writing group and don’t ask someone to critique your writing.
In writing groups, you expect to have writers of different levels and talents. You hope to have more on the upper end than the lower but again, that’s another blog. You don’t expect to be abused. Don’t ask me to sit there and put my time and energy into critiquing your work if you never change a single word. Obviously you don’t want to be critiqued. Please, please, I beg of you, submit work that is ready for critique! I don’t want to read the roughest draft you have, it’s a waste of time for everyone. And don’t blow smoke up my pooper and tell me my work is “nicely polished” to avoid having to do any work. I know better. I know because I continued to make changes even after I sent it in for comments. Oh, and the comments from other members, the ones that actually use the group for it’s intended purpose. Yeah, that’s how I know.
It’s one thing to join a writing group to perfect your craft; to become the writer you think you are or could be. It’s an entirely different thing to join a writing group and do absolutely nothing with the comments given and give none in return. A writing group is nice to have on your query letter but honestly, it isn’t that big a deal. No agent will knock you points for not being in one and no agent is going to jump up and down with joy because you are, either. If the writing stinks, it really isn’t going to matter.
Needless to say, Scribe and I discussed Awesome. It might not be a bad idea to start a new group, sans Awesome.
Now that would be awesome.