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.
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?