Thursday, January 4, 2007

Glitter Cows and Writing Groups

There were a couple of topics I was going to write about. I, of course, didn't write them down, and now can only remember one. Then I thought of an additional something to discuss as well. So newer idea first.

I have a long list of websites in my Favorites list under the folder "writing blogs." It started with just a few. I went to a friend's website and found a link to Miss Snark, whom I had heard of but never visited. He also had a link to AgentQuery. Jumping the gun, I went there and searched for agents that accepted fantasy. Some had websites and blogs. From those places I found other agents, editors and writers (both published and unpublished) linked on the blogs or through the comments pages.

People like Rashenbo and Written Wyrdd (the latter of whom I must attribute the 'glitter cow' half of this entry title because it just stuck in my mind so much).

So, although I think I may have said this before, sites like these I will soon be linking to in a side bar, either for their information or because they're fun, or both. And I hope no one minds.

Shifting gears (one of those phrases I don't much like, but I've heard it often enough that it's now stuck in my repertoire, down the block from 'somewhat'), I had my writing group yesterday.

So it used to be larger, but people move, and now mostly consists of my sister and I, a husband and wife, another woman, and two ladies who don't come on a regular basis. But for around Christmas, we meet every Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. at a nearby bookstore. Since I joined (every summer since my sophomore year of college, and every week since I graduated) we've stuck to critiquing pages for the most part. Sometimes someone will have a writing story to tell, some bit of success, or a bit of show and tell about a writing book, but I go there for the critique. I know that there's only so closely I can look at my own words before I simply can't see what's wrong with it.

But this new year we decided to include writing prompts in our weekly schedule. I don't often do prompts, so I have to say, it was kind of fun. We used a picture of a fractal and a few written prompts about it and we ended up with five very different pieces of writing, which we shared after time was up.

Unfortunately, that and just talking about writing, we ended up with too little time to read through the pages I brought. So they read the first two pages and I'll bring everything back next week.

I've heard horror stories about writing groups, and had other experiences with them through workshop classes. I think they're a good idea for anyone who wants to be a writer, but they need to be a bit careful with it. Some people starts groups for the purpose of having others gush over their work, but can't take criticism at all. Others will mesh really well and everyone benefits. The hardest part I find is after a group of people read my work, then I go home, look through all the comments and revise my pages, I sometimes have to go through it again because my voice has gotten sidetracked.

'Be prepared for cirticism.' Ideally, IMO, one person shares a piece of writing and receives verbal and/or written comments (I like both) that point out what could be strengthened without coming across as 'you have to change X to Y or it's wrong.' I'm a big believer that there's no one right way to write, but if you can't handle hearing people say your writing needs work, then you could be in a bit of trouble.

'Only take the advice that fits' is another good rule with writing groups. You always know your story better than people who just read it and they might question something you know the answer to. You just need to put that answer in there. I get comments about making things clearer and I have to be very careful with that, finding a balance between clarity and giving too much away so the reader doesn't need to think or wonder (I like readers who think and wonder).

'Be careful of what others say when they write in a different genre that you do.' My sister is the only one who regularly reads the same genres as me, and no one else really writes fantasy in my group. The advantage is seeing a varied response about how the story reads, characterization and the like. The disadvantage is that different genres sometimes require different a focus. Some of the women there write romance, I do not, and I occasionally wonder if their desire to have a concrete image of a character is a reflection of that or another genre they prefer to read (versus a single detail or two, but no general description of hair and eye color, that sort of thing--my take is that it isn't -always- necessary because a reader will form their own image to suit the personality).

I could be wrong about that point, they've certainly been writing seriously for longer than I, but it boils down to that old idea of 'take it with a grain of salt.' What works for other genres may not work for yours. Likewise, the way a group is set up may not work for you, but there are plenty online that writers can try out, too. This group generally works for me, as long as I stay on my toes, and then I have a few others to read the same chapters and see if I've overedited.

I get the feeling this isn't exactly what I originally planned to say about writing groups, but it's how I feel (hopefully, I've phrased it right, sometimes I don't and my ideas get all garbled), so I'll leave with the hope that you're writing more than I today.

1 comment:

writtenwyrdd said...

Although most comments are well intended you really DO have to consider the writer's genre. If they haven't read a couple of thousand fantasy novels like I have, why should I believe their perspective is better than my own and ignore my writer's instincts?

Why? Because they might be right. That's the Catch 22, isn't it? We have to listen just in case.

In the end, it's our judgment as writers what belongs in our stuff; but without criticism and critique groups (I bless my critiquers) we write in a vacuum. It's easy to delude yourself, easy to lose your Readers Eye.