Sunday, December 7, 2014

It takes a village of writers

By Kristi Belcamino

About six weeks ago I had a full-on panic when I realized I might not have the first draft of my novel done in time to have my writer's group read it before it was due to the publisher.

Full-on panic.

I don't think I could let confidentially let any of my writing out into the world without letting these keen fellow writers have a look at it first. They make me a better writer. I would dare say that they are the reason I'm a published writer at all. Not only do they help me with my current manuscript, but they also help  me learn and grow as a writer.

I'm so darn lucky.

Five years ago, when I sat down to write my first novel, BLESSED ARE THE DEAD, my youngest was about to start kindergarten. I asked a writer friend at the community pool how she found her writer's group. I'm not from Minnesota and it seemed nearly impossible to find writers who didn't already have a writing group. She told me to take a class at the Loft Literary Center, specifically a master class on the novel.

You had to audition for the popular class and not everyone was allowed in, so that already narrowed the field to other serious writers. So, I took the class with the whole intention of finding a writing group.

It didn't happen right away,

Meanwhile, I found other opportunities to get my manuscript read through groups, such as Sisters in Crime, and through other online networking.

Let's just say during this process I kissed a lot of frogs. It takes true talent to be able to give constructive feedback. I got a lot of feedback that didn't make sense. It wasn't that I disagreed with it, I just really didn't know what they were trying to say. Not everyone is able to spot what is wrong in a novel and then express it in a way that someone else can use that feedback.

I also was briefly in a writer's group with really keen writers but the format just didn't work for me - it was a group that meant frequently to workshop works in progress. I needed a group that would read my entire manuscript in one fell swoop and then critique the work as a whole.

Luckily, I stayed in contact with many of the other writers from my Loft class. Two writers that I particularly admired had mentioned they were in a writing group. One day I was brave enough to ask them to consider me if they ever thought about adding a new member to their group.

Well, about six months later, they said they had an opening.

Thank God for that day.

In this group, called Supergroup, I not only found writers who are a joy to read but also six new friends who I truly care about.

These writers are amazingly talented. They give me stellar writing advice about my own work and I learn by reading and critiquing them.

On Thursday, I was able to give them my first, albeit, shitty, draft of BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP, and I eagerly await their feedback so I can feel confident about what I send out to my editor.

It wasn't necessarily easy to find my writer's group, but it was totally worth it.

Any thoughts out there on writer's groups?


Al Tucher said...

It's great when you find the right one.

I had a group that was helpful for a while, but we were unsuccessful in bringing in new members. After a couple of years I realized that I knew in advance what each member would say about anything I submitted. The group petered out shortly afterward.

Kristi said...

That's no good, then. My best readers in my group should probably be paid to do developmental editing. they are that good. I'm very lucky, I know.