Wednesday, January 30, 2013

February 2013 Ramble: Writing Groups

I have been fiddling around with being a writer for at least two decades, but I’ve only gotten serious about it the past year or so. Part of my process of “getting serious” included looking for a group of strangers who I could share my writing with who would give me honest, constructive feedback. My family and friends are great support, and I’m not saying that they think everything I write is gold, but I wasn’t sure I could trust their opinions because they know and love me (so I thought if they liked what I wrote it would be mostly because they liked me).

I was also looking for something I could be accountable to. A writing group only works if people are submitting their writing, so to stay active in a group I would also have to stay active in writing. The third reason I’d decided on finding a writing group was to improve my critiquing skills (which were pretty non-existent a year ago). I wanted to be able to read more critically, not to point and laugh at typos or author errors, but to understand what makes a good story better and how it can go wrong.

So, there are my reasons: accountability/motivation and a desire for unbiased critiques. I suppose it’s a sad state of affairs when I feel I can trust a bunch of strangers over my loved ones, but I think we can all understand that feeling. The members of my writing group did not stay strangers for long, but the trust I have in my group members hasn’t changed. I’ve gained valued conspirators, a better understanding of story structure and a sense of forward momentum.

Now, on to a few tips you should keep in mind when debating joining a writing group. First, figure out your reasons for wanting a group. Each writers group will have different dynamics and structures and you need to find the one that works the best for you. This is not the one where you necessarily feel the most comfortable and the best about yourself. It is also not going to be the one that makes you seriously consider suicide after each meeting. I would suggest somewhere in the middle where you feel safe and challenged. Having members that are at a slightly higher level than you is also a good idea to help you stretch and improve your abilities.

Second, make sure you are ready to accept (and where applicable, apply) criticism. No one can tell your story like you can, but there is always room for improvement. Once you decide on the story that you are going to tell you need to listen to your group’s comments to make sure you ARE telling the story that you want to be telling. I’m not saying to make every change that is brought up because then it will no longer be your story. One rule of thumb that I’ve heard on more than one occasion is if you hear a comment once and don’t agree with it, it’s okay to brush it off. But if you hear that same comment over and over, even if you don’t agree with it, it is something to consider. It is pointing to a problem section; somewhere along the line what you were trying to say and what you actually said became two different things. You may not want to fix it in the way people suggest, but fix it you must.

On the whole I have found my writing group experience very beneficial and am looking forward to using it more fully to become a better writer as well as a better critiquer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Changes and Moving Forward

Hello all! It's been awhile, I know. I have some great news though!

1. I attended LTUE last year and met a group of people who were interested in forming a writing group. Through various additions and subtractions, our group has stabilized and we meet every Tuesday night over Google. With work being crazy and other issues, my attendance has not been the greatest, but I have had a great time and gotten wonderful insights. We have decided to launch a group blog where we each post on a monthly topic. Tonight we will be discussing our first submissions and getting it posted by the first of February. It will just be a snippet on that site with a link to our respective personal blogs. If you were able to follow that jumble you should be coming to the conclusion that - Yes! I will be posting here at least once a month! *waits for the cheers to die down* So in a few days you'll see my first group post telling why I joined a writing group.

2. Last May I attended Superstars Writing Seminars and met a lot of wonderful authors, aspiring authors, editors, etc. I am going to be attending it this year as well and a few people who will also be attending decided to form little critique groups to get to know each other better as well as get more words on paper/screen. Split into groups of 4-5 we post ~1k words to our livejournal uhh... journals and then read and comment on each others' posts. So that gives the double blessing of me having to write at least 1k words each week as well as getting valuable feedback. I'm stoked!

3. I have been driving from Mesquite to Las Vegas for work 3+ times a week for two years now and I am well and truly sick of it. All that time wasted!! At first I thought I could use the 1.5 hr drive to "write" into a recorder and be productive, but it hasn't worked out as I wanted it too. I think it's mostly because I'm afraid of speaking my thoughts out loud. I've always been better at writing/typing them out. I will admit that I probably should have forced myself to become comfortable with that medium instead of wasting so much of the last two years, but it's all muddy water under a broken bridge now. SO, what is #3 about, you ask? I've decided (after months and months of debating with myself) to move to Vegas. It's not a permanent move because I don't really like Vegas, but it will allow me more time for daily workouts and writing. I'm hoping to have a place settled on in the next week or two and then just get 'er done. Enough time has been wasted and I've been miserable for too long. I don't know why it has taken me this long to light the fire under me as I know that nothing lifts my spirits more than a big life change, but there it is.

Stay tuned for monthly postings that I hope will be educational and edifying :D Nanu, Nanu

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rainy Desert Teachings

Driving through the desert after the rain on my way home this morning seeing how green everything is, I had two thoughts: The desert doesn't waste time in showing gratitude. And it is quick to forgive a drought and get on with its life, beautifully. I need to be more like the desert.