It’s been quiet in Bloglandia because I was actually doing some writing, although I can’t claim it was “real writing.” Real writing is the hard slog, new words on the page, new scenes, new ruminations, new dialog. Action that propels the story. Really hard, but of course, so necessary. What I did was not that. What I did was tinkering, sometimes considered writing, but really, it’s stalling if you don’t actually have a completed manuscript. I opened up two older documents, one a sequel and one a prequel to my Memphis Zhang (the witchy woman) novel. I began tinkering with both and what I really need to do is choose one. But which one? Still haven’t decided.
Okay. Another reason I’ve been quiet on the blog is because…(take it off quick, like a band-aid!) I got not one but TWO rejections. I promised myself I would be honest here and let you bloggers know what’s the what. Both rejections are for short stories, and both were contest entries. Bummer days, bummer days. But I will carry on, I swear.
So, now is clearly a good time to discuss writing groups and how much they help when the writing slows or comes to a standstill. I’ve been a member of a writing group since 2003, or there abouts. We call ourselves Kill Your Darlings (KYD), after a quote from William Faulkner. He was referring to rewriting, cutting the dross no matter how much you love it.
My group meets about every two weeks, and while we are kind to each other, we are also honest about what works and what does not in our stories. The problem is, with a novel it’s best not to show the first draft to anyone, at least, that’s my take. Wait until you have nearly a whole draft finished, then start polishing it up and show the second draft to the group. Short stories are easier because they are shorter and therefore it’s faster to get to that second draft, naturally. Of course, if you’re not writing anything, you have nothing to show the group. The trick is to find motivation and inspiration when things seem desperate. A writing group can keep you inspired.
I found my group through a local website called sfstation.com, since Craigslist.org can be a bit sketchy when it comes to this type of thing. I had to submit some writing to the group and got invited to attend three meetings, which were like a trial period in which the members decided if I was certifiable or not. (I passed.) If you’re looking for a writing group, I suggest googling the name of your town/city + writing + group. See what happens.
KYD has a format: One member emails a story or novel excerpt a few days in advance so we can read it and make notes (yes, on actual paper!). We meet at one member’s home, rotating from meeting to meeting, and we pitch in for take-out Chinese or pizza. Everyone “checks in” about the last couple of weeks, keeping it to our writing and reading so we don’t degenerate into a self-help group. Then the writer up for a critique reads his or her work out loud (we are divided evenly-ish with 3 women and 4 men). Each person then speaks, starting with positive feedback and moving on to more critical areas (kill those darlings!). The writer is allowed to give us his reaction to our critiques after everyone has spoken. The end.
My friend Heidi Ayarbe, who lives abroad, is a member of an online critique group. These work really well, too.
I’d love to know what others do to connect with writers. Do you have a writers group or something akin to it in your own field of interest? If you do nothing, preferring to go it alone, it would be great to know how that works for you. Share! Share!