Thursday, August 23, 2007

Honesty is in the Details

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.
It's been two years since fate brought four women living in suburbia, with children ranging in age from 2-16, together. Our work lives have similarities and differences, but that's always added dimension to our discussions. No doubt life will try to get in the way of what we have. One of us may move, or struggle with changes in her family, or travel for work, but nothing can change the fact that gifts have already been given. And I don't foresee a time when they won't be given freely still.

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.

13 comments:

kristen said...

I have often thought about how incredibly lucky you four are to have found each other. The chemistry seems to really work for you, and clearly the support, feedback and encouragement you share is a priceless gift.

The way you share all of it with the rest of us? well, there really are no words. A simple "thank you" will have to do.

The Writers' Group said...

Kristen,

A simple thank you is quite lovely! We share what we're learning because to us a "pay it forward" philosophy is spot on.

Lynne

The Writers' Group said...

*Sniff* We really do have something special, don't we? I'll always treasure this post, Lynne, thank you. And Kristen, thank YOU for stopping by and commenting. It helps us to know what works and what doesn't.

Amy

Lisa said...

I really have to thank The Writers Group for opening up so many doors for me. I read you, I lurked, I finally came out of the closet and you were the first to comment on my fledgling blog and you were so generous in offering encouragement. Through you and yours posts, I've learned so much, made connections to others in this community and you've helped me to find the courage to venture out into the real world to attend the retreat and sign up for a workshop. I look forward to reading your posts every single day and you've all helped me more than I can say. Thank you.

The Writers' Group said...

Lisa,

You are so welcome. This is exactly why we started the blog in the first place. We recognized early on we had something to share, and we're thrilled to have found an audience. Isn't that what all writers hope for?

Keep venturing out there, and keep writing.

Lynne

Lisa Marnell said...

Lynne,

Like Amy, I too will cherish this post. The honest feedback the three of you gave me on my draft Monday evening will change my book so completely, and will make it so much improved.

Really, though I have significant revisions, I am thrilled to be working on these. The final product will be the very best I can produce.

Also, your comments on this being a literary journey not a race, well, I had initially thought I would get my YA novel to my agent in September/ October. Now I plan on January/ February. And to be honest, I want to WOW him. And I will (dammit)- thanks to your, Hannah, and Amy's support and feeback.

Lisa

The Writers' Group said...

Lisa,

Thank you for sharing your journey with our readers. It's so important for everyone to know that each of us must constantly reassess our expectations. Your novel will WOW him, because you care enough about your characters to hear them out and to capture all they want to say. No matter how long that takes.

Lynne

Shauna Roberts said...

I agree totally that every writer could benefit from a supportive, helpful writers' group. I am in one myself, and if/when I finally get my novel published, it will be because of their help. I'm glad you have all found each other.

The Writers' Group said...

Shauna,

I'm so happy to know you've found a group as supportive as ours. And do say when not if your novel will be published. Remember the power of positive thinking.

Lynne

Shauna Roberts said...

:-) I started to type when, then stopped myself because I thought it might sound presumptuous. Thank you for your vote of confidence!

The Writers' Group said...

Shauna,

Be sure and let us know when it is published! Lynne

Larramie said...

You truly are most fortunate to have found each other, yet -- even better -- is the fact that you appreciate this good fortune.

The Writers' Group said...

Larramie,

Your thoughtfulness always makes me smile. How fortunate for all of us that you stop by and share your wisdom.

Lynne