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A Writing Group is an Anchor…in a good way.

From Zany Holidays Blog

I’ve been hanging out with a great group of people lately.

Once every two weeks, I pull my car into a small parking lot behind an old convent, run up two long flights of stairs, and sit down at a table with other like-minded individuals.

We are all writers.

I paid for my seat at the table and, in doing so, committed to a block of time that throws a wrench into my weeknight schedule of dinner, books and bedtime for two small kids. But, when I received an email asking if I wanted to return for the next session of Roundtables, I looked past my Mother Writer guilt to four reasons why these sessions are vital to my writing career:

1. I read my work out loud during each meeting. We all do. The group is run in a very egalitarian style. I’m nervous every time I read. Still, I love this aspect of the session for the exact reason that Delia Lloyd mentions in her Huffington Post article, “5 Tips for Productively Editing Your Writing,” (which I found via Lisa Romeo Writes).

Reading out loud, Lloyd says, helps you discover your voice.

You not only hear the repetition and the over-writing. You can also hear whether or not you sound too stifled, too casual, too funny or too sharp.

Besides finding my voice, reading my work to others forces me out of my comfort zone. Margaret Atwood says, “You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer.” I agree. And, each time I read, I put myself out there as a professional writer and, in the process, gain more courage to be that writer.

2. I get instant feedback. In the January issue of The Writer magazine, Robin Garland interviews a story consultant and agent, Lisa Cron, and asks what makes a good story.

“A [good] story,” Cron says, “must have the ability to engender a sense of urgency from page 1.”

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com

Sharing my latest chapter with a live group of writers gives me a pretty good idea – right away – whether or not my story will keep a reader engaged.

This in-the-moment critique was new to me, but I’m beginning to appreciate the quality of it. Though, I know I don’t need instant feedback to continue with my rewrite, I don’t want to move on to the next chapter until I know I’m in a good place with the current chapter, not this time around anyway.

3. My draft reads more consistent. Writing a novel is daunting, and I procrastinate when projects seem overwhelming. For the last two years, I’ve worked in spurts on this novel and then put it down. When I did get back to it – after too long a break – the tension was lost. The draft felt fractured, unstructured, and too loose.

In just a short time, I knew that the feedback I received from the other writers at the Roundtable was invaluable. Finishing another chapter rewrite by the next session became a concrete deadline I didn’t want to ignore. And, with shorter breaks between revisions, I had less problems remembering where I left off and where I was headed.

4. I benefit from more camaraderie and support. I could tackle this novel alone, huddled over my laptop in the cold basement of my house. But, I focus better and am more driven to finish when I’m surrounded by the warm bodies of other writers.

Yes, I’ve met so many great writers on Twitter, She Writes, and (now) Facebook, and I wouldn’t trade those connections for anything — many of them have become fast friends and staunch supporters. But, we all live miles and states apart. While I treasure the ethereal influence they have on my writing, I need the presence of writers in close proximity just the same.

Sitting at that table has a tangible affect on my writing. I am tethered to my work in a new way that fuels my determination to finish this novel. And, my place in that group completes  another piece of my puzzle in becoming a writer.

~

What has a writing group done for you lately?

*****

Garland, Robin. “The Love of a Good Story.” The Writer. January 2011: 34-35, 55. Print.


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Awarded the chance to share.

Tamara, who writes Little Conversations, shared a blog award with me:

blog_honest_award_thumb

My thanks to Tamara, as this award gives me a chance to think about 10 things that describe who I am as a person and a writer. The award suggests 10 secrets, but don’t our secrets reveal our person? Plus, as the award must be passed on to others, I can share links to a few worthy blogs I read on a regular basis:

The Writing Vein
Monpon
Writing, Reading, & Reflections
Mama C and the Boys
House of Sand and Fog

Now, to 10 things you might, or might not, care to know about me:

1 I vacillate between thinking I have something to write about and wondering, who do I think I am?

2 My first collection of short stories was written on a small spiral notebook about a young crush with curly red hair. If he only knew….

3 I believe in Karma, what goes around comes around. If I’m kind to my writing colleagues, I hope they will be kind to me.

4 I’m often a cynic when it comes to politics, religion, and facebook.

5 I write morning pages every day. While I love them, I haven’t deciphered the difference between the purpose of them versus my personal journals. Maybe the latter fills up faster with rants and raves.

6 I write “looking forward to working with you” way too often in emails and letters. There must be an alternative.

7 I’d rather have strangers read my writing than my own family.

8 Margaret Atwood has been one of my favorite authors, ever since I read The Handmaid’s Tale and The Edible Woman.

9 My mother always wanted me to write a book about her. I wonder if she would haunt me from beyond if I really did.

10 Writing blog posts takes me much longer than I think it should. But, then, I’m a perfectionist at times.

If you made it through these 10, you’re very kind (good Karma headed your way).

Why I can never join Facebook.

There’s email, my cell phone, the Redroom, my blog.
SheWrites and Lulu and WriterMag.com.

All day,
I log in,
Check in,
Sign in.

I refresh email, hoping.
I check stats, wondering.

I sign out.
This is ridiculous, for crying out loud.
I sign back in.
Just one more peek.

I can’t be bothered with Facebook, or Twitter.
I don’t want to know who’s looking to be my friend, or not.
I am busy.
Obsessing.

About me.