Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Tuesday's Inspiration - Critique Groups
In many ways, writing is a lonely game. The people you meet are often those you've created on paper. Telling stories that are produced on paper or electronically takes time and being alone. Trying to write when surrounded by people carrying on conversations can be difficult if not impossible but writing in a vacuum is also difficult. One needs feedback from others. Just sending off a story and waiting for an editor to comment can be hard. So what can you do?
Writers often band together with other writers to share their works and receive comments from their fellow writers to help. But critique groups may not always work for one author or another. I've belonged to three in my long career as a writer. The first one was centered only in poetry and while I learned there things like rhythm and word choice there was no appreciation of my prose. Since it was the only group in town, I remained and my fellow writers at least were supportive of what I was doing but they didn't help me hone my craft. Then we moved.
I joined a second critique group who said they were interested in both poetry and prose. Problem was they were interested in intellectual prose. I wrote genre fiction, stories with happy endings. My characters had goals and motives and coflicts that could happen to writers in every day life. Did I learn here. Yes and no. I learned I was never going to write "literary" fiction, but some of the authors the quoted as being wonderful didn't write "literary" fiction in the days when they were producing. I also had fun. Doing poetry readings in NYC and meeting people whose poetry was recognized was a great experience. I also had some poems published. My fiction suffered in some ways and grew stronger in others.
Then I found a third critique group. While the writers were mainly focused on romance they could give pointers on some of the other areas I was exploring. The group formed in 1990 has continued. Not all the original members still belong. Some of them have gone on to become best-selling authors. Some have moved and some have dropped out of the writing game. I always wonder about the strong writers who simply gave up. Was it something the group was not giving them or was it a fear of faila fear of success. Through this group I discovered electronic publishing years before it became the boom it is now. And I think a lot about those people who left the writing game. But each time one of the members or former member's career takes off I feel inspired and wonder if somehow I have helped them move forward in their careers the way they have helped me.