Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The List

By Hannah

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.


Lisa said...

I am so glad you're sharing all of this with us. Could you expand a little on how often you meet, for how long and what happens during a typical session? Have you considered writing a book about your experiences as part of a successful writers' group? Thank you again.

Larramie said...

Please -- though it may sound strange -- take the following as a compliment: Reading about you, your guidelines and expectations reminds me of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants! :o))

Shauna Roberts said...

Excellent post. Your group and its procedures reminds me of my own wonderful critique group.

The timing of your post was perfect; I cited it in my own blog entry today on "How to tell when you're in a bad critique group":

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Doesn't sound strange, although I hadn't considered that! We are, perhaps, the Siterhood of the Flying Keyboards? We did blog on a lot of the basics and origins when we started the blog, which you can track along the side of the blog under Labels. If those don't answer specific questions, please ask away! I don't think we've thought about a book, per se, but we got asked so many questions when we'd meet other people, we started this blog!


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Oh, and I will definitely check out that post, Shauna! Thank you!


Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Thanks for the lovely compliment! I'm about to launch a revision of my book - I could use four BAHSTUN gals to help me! I grew up in Dullsville, er, Plainville, MA. Any BC grads among you? Go Eagles!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Kim, I didn't know you were one of us. Anytime you decide to come home -- like on book tour -- let us and we'll shop you around the local bookstores.

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