Posted by Lynne
Honesty is in the details. The women of the writers' group, without question, have the purest of intentions when providing critique to a novelist. As I've mentioned in previous posts, there is no negative feedback to be found during our discussions. Surely there is constructive feedback, but never criticism; of our writing or of any other writers, for that matter. We discuss, examine, comment on, and dissect-- to learn. Our collective aim is to become better writers and to help every member of the group on the path to a literary life.
I was asked recently by a woman working on her first novel if I ever foresee a time when I won't need The Writers' Group anymore. My answer was plain and simple. No.
What writer wouldn't treasure three people taking her manuscript, reading it line by line and then spending two hours talking about it with compassion and precision. Without the writers' group it would take months longer to see any or all of the following:
- The need to up the stakes and tension. This has become first and foremost our strongest test of each other's writing. We know the marketplace is relentless when it comes to this assessment; we save each other time and the hardship of hearing this from editors and agents.
- An inconsistent timeline. Hannah's got an amazing eye for this.
- Weak verb choices in key scenes, and overuse of a word or words. Who hasn't fought the but, just, that problem? And the more unusual the word choice, the less you can use it, says Amy.
- Lack of authenticity of character motives and uniqueness of voice. As a temperament and behavior expert, this is my thing.
- Setting or absence of setting to ground the reader. Lisa is our setting guru.
- Believability of plot. Amy holds us to a high standard here.
Some writers see having a writers' group as a crutch. They believe if you are a true and master writer, you wouldn't need a writers group. This is utter nonsense. In my opinion, it's as naive as saying you don't need an agent or an editor. I don't know a writer who wouldn't cherish support, encouragement and of course, honest feedback.
If you don't have the kind of support we're blessed to have, don't despair. You have options. You can stop by here any day you like and share in what we're learning. You can find yourself a writers' group, and if at first you don't succeed--try, try again. Finally, you can find an online support network. Though I'm new to the Backspace community, I've garnered a lot from it already.
Making a literary life is a journey, not a race. It's better to walk it with friends.