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Letters from Proxima Thule

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Writing Groups
eliot
catvalente
Finished my wordcount early today. Funny how some days every word is a battle, and some days it all comes pouring out.

So I re-plug in the TV, catch up on LJ and Twitter, respond to various conversations on my beloved internet.

I read ellen_kushner 's post about her awesome writers' group, and feel pangs of envy. I've wanted a writing group since I started writing seriously in my baby-early twenties, and I've always struggled. Most often, the group just isn't interested in the kind of writing I'm interested in, and I have to sit politely through monologues about the benefits of transparent prose as though I had never heard of the concept before, and only write like I do because I don't know any better. It's even worse when I've done the work to give thoughtful critique on genres and styles that I'm not interested in, but the rest of the group just glazed over when they looked at mine and didn't want to deal with it. I like hard critique, I just don't like being told to become a writer I'm not, to give up everything I like in books and start doing something I don't. I'm not singling out any one group--I've had this issue since I was a teenager, when everyone got real quiet in my college classes and refused to say anything about my poetry. Also not helpful: I've always been the youngest person in the group. Hopefully that'll be irrelevant soon, since I'm not a baby twentysomething anymore.

My good experiences have been with writers' workshops, of which I've been to two and both of which I've loved. And I learned a hell of a lot, the kind of learning I crave having had pretty little in the way of formal writing training. But that's a week, and maybe it's personal shyness and maybe it's enculturated "I don't want to bother anyone," but I feel like it's not done to turn to those same groups for other books when the workshop is done. I fell like that's bad etiquette.

So in a lot of ways I'm on my own until I turn a manuscript in to my editor. I want a writing group, in person if possible, or on chat, or even a couple of awesome pro or semi-pro level beta-readers. (I have beta-readers, but they're all busy with their own stuff and about 70% of people I've ever sent a manuscript to for comment never got back to me.) But it seems so elusive, and I have no idea how to put it together. That whole not wanting to bother people with my silly drafts makes it all the harder.

I think I'd probably have a whole different process if I had a writing group. Sometimes I feel like groups are for cool kids, insiders, and I'm the perpetual geek among geeks, always on the outside. Sometimes I feel like I gave up and I just don't try anymore, so it's my own fault.

But like anything else, agents, editors, therapists, partners--having the right one is more important than just having one, and maybe someday the right one will come along.

At least I have justbeast , who cuddles up to my book and says: when you're writing it it's like a secret that's just mine, but soon everyone will know it. When you finish I'm going to steal it away so it stays mine and no one can read it. And I laugh, and have some margarita.

Well, pointing out what's broken is pretty damn important.

Sure, it makes me a good critic. But I don't think it's enough to make me a good editor.

Hm. Makes me want to work with you, because I suspect you'd actually be awesome.