Last night The Writers' Group shared how we met, how we work, Amy’s Fabulous Query Letter Format and other thoughts with a wonderful group of writers at Buttonwood Books. A huge thank you to those who came out, shared experiences and asked questions.
One part of the exchange stood out for me. We were talking about why this group works well: we trust each other; we learn from each other; edits are suggested only to make the work better; each one’s success is joyous news for all. The natural question arose: what would any of the four of us do if in a group without a chemistry quotient?
Quit. Quit. Quit. Quit.
Then bookshop owner Betsey Detwiler asked for suggestions on what a writer should do if in a group that is not working. As we offered thoughts on meeting formats and deadlines, Amy added, "make a list of what you want."
It sounds so simple. Just write it out? Yes. If you name your goals and the qualities you seek in black and white, you envision details more clearly. You know what to look for, the ideal, where you are willing to be flexible; where you are not.
Where to start? You want partners in the evolution of craft. You want support and understanding from others who know that writing is work, and the business end of it is, well, business. You want people who care enough about you to be honest and to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses so the work will be stronger. You want people who are determined to hold their own published work some day. You want to enjoy your time with them.
Those are non-negotiables. Better no group than a group that does not help you evolve and give you a place of trust. It is doable without a group, of course. Write. Read, both fiction and about craft. Take classes from authors you respect. Find out what you don't know and learn it. Do research. Go to conferences and surround yourself with peers. Before you know it, you may find a partner in crime.
Even if you are in a group, make your list. What is critical for you? What are bonus qualities? Treasure the elements you have. Be your own "group" if you don't have one. Name what you need. If you list it, they will come.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007