Writing Groups II

Shoreacres gave a good and trenchant response to my post on writing groups:  “Here’s the key phrase in your post: …having a good writer look at your own stuff…. ” and goes on to say, “(I)f we’re going to listen to other voices, we need to choose those voices carefully.” See her blog at shoreacres.wordpress.com

As I said in the first ‘writing groups’ post, I’ve joined a couple of groups.  I agree with shoreacres that we need to choose carefully.  The hard part of ‘carefully’ has been, for me at least, not choosing just people whose writing I admire most.  I love fine literary writing, and there are a couple of people in my writing groups who are great wordsmiths.  Their critique of my stuff helps iron out the plodding bits.  But I’m writing genre fiction, so I need to listen to folks whose work I don’t read by choice.  In my quest for ‘comps’, which is to say, writers I can compare my own writing to in queries to agents and publishers, I’ve been reading a lot of mystery/suspense lately.  Right now, I’m reading one by a best-selling author whose writing is considerably weaker than at least four (unpublished) writers in groups I’m in.  The characters are square-chinned, chiseled cardboard, and the prose varies from workmanlike to plodding … but the plot drags me along.  For me, it’s a lesson learned.  Reading other genres exposes me to gag-me-with-a-spoon phraseology, but phraseology that’s appropriate to the genre (we’re talking chick-lit, here), but also to writing that has great mechanics (clear description in the right places, despite the heaving-breast breathlessness).  So, I appreciate shoreacres’ insight and would only add that ‘good’ writers’ groups include all sorts of writers.

Getting Started

I have always loved a good story, whether it was my cousin Gamble telling about a sorry guy with a 3-legged dog that he called ‘flat tire’ or my friend Maher reciting the Reincarnation of O’Rourke in perfect Irish brogue.  Wonderful stories both.  Maybe that was why I loved Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  Talk about some good stories!  Apparently, we’ve always been at it … Homer, Virgil, Chaucer, Boccaccio, hundreds of troubadours and the itinerant bluesmen whose music I play.

I started writing without thoughts of a novel.  Maybe just some sketches, some literary stretching exercises.  My first lesson:  you can’t write fiction without characters, and you can’t just conjure up characters and then stop writing about them.  They take over the story.  You get drawn in.  What will she do next?  He wouldn’t put up with THAT, would he?  So here I am, 126,000 words of original draft later, 10,000 cut in rewrite, learning slowly about the real-world aspects of writing, which is a business, after all.

So, why a blog?

In short, H-E-L-P!  I’d like to share ideas with other writers, and get some help from readers.  I’m starting my second novel, and there are plenty of places I’d like your reaction, to both plot and character.  Follow the blog and leave a reply when you see something that demands a comment.  I’ll be back to you soon.