Wednesday, October 24, 2012

That Writing Entry I Said I Didn't Want to Do

... I joined a writing group.

To be fair, I joined this writing group two years ago, when I lived within walking distance of the place they were meeting, but then I had little bundle of joy, moved, worked a lot, and moved some more. But recently, I was motivated to check up on this group again, and found they met not too far from where I live now. So, I went.

Why, oh WHY didn't I go dressed like this?

Now, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I've been a part of Permuted Press' online writer's critique group (the Pit) since 2007, and I've learned quite a bit there. People have come and gone from the group, but there remains a core of participants, some of whom can boast quite extensive publishing histories. And it's been wonderful. A while back, one of us had joined another writer's group, and came back with horror stories about how useless it was.

Needless to say (ah-HAH, but I'm saying it anyway) I went to the meeting with a slight bit of trepidation. When I got there, the group's coordinator was explaining the weekly meeting schedule to another person who had also joined some time ago and not visited, and he handed me a business card while he did so, with this same information on the back.

Shiny, I thought. This guy has his shit together. A realy hoopy frood.

The Saturday meeting I ended up at was a "Shop Talk," I learned, where the group would discuss the mechanics of writing, the process, what works for them... all the stuff I said I didn't want to blog about. (Still don't.) Gathered around the group of tables was a range of people, ages from the mid-twenties to the mid-fifties, I would guess. (I didn't ask.) And all with varying degrees of experience in writing; one of the people there was an ex-military journalist, who had a completed manuscript and was in talks with an agent, while another wanted desperately to write but didn't know where to start, and everyone else fell somewhere in-between.

After the initial "getting to meet you" bullshit, there was some discussion about membership and participation, and then it meandered just a bit before the other new person asked about the methods of writing, which opened up things. We talked about paper and pen vs computer, and voice recognition software to cut down on transcription time, which then drifted into a conversation about other methods, outlining and 3x5 cards and Story Bibles.

There were other techniques brought up, and one guy had a deck of Story Forge cards, which I thought were neat, but I don't think I have a use for. And that went to illustrate a point, that my method may work for me, but you have to find the thing that will work for you.

My weapon of choice when I have to make a decision.
 The discussion ranged all through the before, during and after stages of novel-writing, which was kind of nice. And all of a sudden, just as we really got to talking, the two hours was up. We put the tables back where they belonged, said our goodbyes, and I walked back to where I had parked, unsure how I felt about the group. When I got home, I talked to my Bestest Friend and Confidant, Kitty, and told her what I said here, still unsure how I felt about it all.

She encouraged me to do whatever I felt best, as she normally does, unless she knows when I'm fucking something up, which is often. I'm still not sure what that is, but I will be participating in this group remotely.

I said all that to say this: If you have the option, join a writing circle of some kind, if you haven't already. The kind of feedback you'll get from a dedicated group of writers/editors is invaluable, and the increased number of high-powered eyes on your work will definitely highlight the areas that need work.

And one more word on that: If you join a group, be in the group. Recently, there was a new member to the novel group I'm a part of, who got his novel reviewed, kicked back all our feedback (more or less) and then went on to self-publish the work with little revision. This author wasted all our time, and he "ate and ran," not returning to critique the next work in the queue, or the work after that. Don't be that guy.

Next time, I want to talk about the Doctor. Oh, you know who I mean.

-Thom Brannan

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