Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Life Cycle of a Writer

by Hannah Roveto

The woman leaned over the table and said, "Do you think being in a writers' group has made a difference?"

"Yes." I nodded. And for the first time, I thought of the length of the journey this group has traveled.

Certainly, in a relatively short time, this group has accomplished a great deal. Yet the benchmarks you can see (agented! published!) exist because of benchmarks we have reached that you cannot.

When we are young in our writing, we play more. We try things that flop, we throw things out there that cannot stick, darlings that must be cut in time. Yet those ideas show up later, fuller and stronger, and it was worth every minute spent on them to learn and to experiment without fear.

We begin to learn how things Should Be. What Expectations for a proper Character, Plot, Setting, Voice. We dive down more fully into each of these areas, maturing like awkward teens. First the feet grow, then the legs. The body stretches. The voice hits an awkward register, then mellows.

At last, at last, all the elements are stronger, fully developed, into a writerly adulthood. The challenge then is to find and maintain, a continual balance between a seriousness of effort, playfulness in spirit, and a belief in what we have to offer the world.

In the past few years, all of us have been through this writers' life cycle. Without doubt, the group has been patient as my skills developed. Whatever I thought I knew of fiction when this group started -- from classes, past efforts, and reading like a fiend -- I was far more of an adolescent in this process than I suspected at the time!

While our process has been about the goal of publication, without doubt, it has also been about meeting a bar -- one continually raised the more we see of the world of agents and publication. Having this group critique my work -- and allow me to learn from their work and experience as well -- has without a doubt shepherded me through my writer's adolescence in a way that will make the next cycle of writerhood far richer.


Anonymous said...

You are lucky to have such a good group to learn with and be encouraged by.

Happy Writing...

Anonymous said...

Hi Hannah,
Great post. You talk about raising the bar ... when my kids were in school, their best teachers were, by far, the ones who set high expectations. I think we tend to live up to that high bar. You're fortunate to have a writers' group with these standards. :)

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

The bar only gets higher, the more Amy and Lynne and Lisa learn about what agents want, and in turn, what publishers want. I don't know what the publishing world will think of the story itself, but talk about clean copy, strong threads, a sense of place, clear characters and a consistent voice; that'll be covered!