I kept reading about them in the blogosphere. Everyone recommends them: Writers’ Groups!
So how do you find one? Especially if you live in the small, non-English-speaking country of Luxembourg. So I filed it away as yet more writerly advice I couldn’t take, like nationwide bookshop signings, getting into libraries… Perhaps I could find a critique group online, someday… I really had to get searching… When I had time…
But then I found one. Or rather, it found me.
I was at one of the two English-language bookshops in the country, discussing “my” anthology sales (see here) when someone overheard and asked if I was interested in joining a Writers’ Group. Serendipity indeed!
For the first meeting, I was uncertain about how it played. I was by far the oldest. I was the only man. Would they “get” my work? How honest would they be? How honest could I – should I – be? Especially in genres I never read – autobiography, modern romance, YA science fiction and non-scifi short stories.
But I was made welcome at my first meeting and we were off reviewing members’ works-in-progress (WIPs). Uncertainty faded away and soon I was shooting off my opinions on their submissions like a regular. It must have been okay, as they haven’t kicked me out (yet). They’ve been plowing through my WIP novella, “Private Vices”, which added another genre to the mix – paranormal noir.
I won’t hint at how many clumsy phrases, punctuation errors and other bad stuff their eagle-eyes have picked up in my submissions. And I’d thought my own revisions had ironed-out everything! Of course, that’s why writers need groups and editors – it’s hard to see one’s own waverings.
Much as I appreciate my friends’ beta-reading (hi, guys!), I know that friends and family always will be kind. (If you doubt that, check out the X-Factor auditions on TV and feel the pain and heartbreak of the many young hopeful untunefuls whose friends have said, “Gosh, you sing so well! Honest! Truly!”) Writing Group members don’t carry that relationship baggage and can tell the truth.
I’m particularly interested in how the group reacts to my female characters. I want to write “strong women” who are neither leather-clad kickass teenager chicks (I don’t write that kind of fiction) nor a “strong man, but in a female body”. I also hope to appeal to female readers – what writer doesn’t?
So my group is just what I needed:-
- committed, widely-experienced writers working in a range of genres and viewing my work from different angles
- sharing critiques on works-in-progress rather than on set exercises, which I would find distracting from progressing my assorted WIPs
- people who can be honest without risking offence and Xmas-card list eviction
- and not to forget the social benefits – that break from the isolation of solo keyboard-tapping in a garret
And after only a couple of meetings, I felt as though I’d been always a member and am always eager for the next session.
My thanks to each one of you!
I join the ranks of those who recommend Writers’ Groups. Go find.