Our writing group has lost its second author… it’s not terribly surprising, all groups go through ups and downs, but it is disappointing. Getting what you need out of a group, while giving the others what they need, can be a real balancing act. Ultimately, only the writer can decide if the group is right for her. (Or him, of course.)
I’m pretty focused. I don’t need a lot of chit chat about personal lives. It’s not that I’m not interested, it’s just that we only have 90 minutes every three weeks! I like to hear what the reader liked and didn’t like. I want to know about things that slowed the reader down or anything confusing. Comments about the characters (likable? scary? not very nice? too over the top?) are welcome. I’d really like help with the entire story arc and plotting, but that’s a little difficult to structure.
I do get a lot out of the group. They pointed out that the protagonist in my current book was awfully blase about sudden death and that all in all, she didn’t come across as very warm and friendly. As this is the second Paula Berger book, I really didn’t realize that all the nice detail regarding Paula’s backstory, her spunky personality and awesome improv skills – not to mention her loving heart and her fatal flaw of stubbornness – were all in book 1. Anyone starting to learn about Paula in book 2 would not be privy to all that. So, rewrite city. You really have to take it seriously when four other people all say the same thing!
Maybe it helps that I have 25 years (or more, I don’t really want to count) of copywriting behind me. I’m pretty good at being open to criticism and taking what I need while leaving the rest behind. Also it probably helps that nobody is too harsh! (No one said “I hate Paula. She’s mean. And rude.”)
So, this group is good for me! But they do vary quite a bit. Some meet weekly. Some read scenes aloud. Some take turns. Some read something from everyone’s work every time. This group is actually my third group. I quit my first because they weren’t focused enough. My second one was fun and helpful but fell apart because people’s lives were changing. (One got married. One started law school. One enrolled in a low-residency MFA program. Etc.) The current group is still evolving and, I like to think, not doomed.
So I’ll miss the sunshine of Jennie’s enthusiasm and her sincerity, totally get that she needs to follow her own path, and hope to see her at writing conferences and elsewhere (such as the “new fiction” section at Borders!).