My Brain’s Been Stewing – Writing Groups

I pulled an all-nighter last night and it’s made me a little irritable, I think.  Right now, I think I look a little like this:

It's oddly difficult to find a picture of Oscar looking grouchy, you know.

Normally, I get this way and I start thinking about things I’ve come across that have honestly bothered me.  This is going to be a big one.

The Writer’s Spot made a post recently that detailed how to create your own writing club. I thought it was a great post, considering I had just started working with my local library director to put together my own writing group.  Very convenient!

However, a man named Richard, with no link to a blog that I can provide for you, leaves this comment:

“Sorry to rain on your parade, but I think writing clubs are only good if you are going to “play” at writing.

If you want to get serious about writing there’s only one way to do it and that’s to sit down each and every day and WRITE! That’s all there is to it. There’s no easy path. You simply write and write and write. EVERY DAY!

And the feedback and criticism you’re going to get from other amateur writers is, well, amateur in that regards, too.

Want real feedback and criticism? Tailor your writing to a specific market, put it in an envelope with a SASE (self addresses stamped envelope) and send it to a publisher. If it comes back without comment then it either stinks or didn’t fit the market you were aiming for. Read it with your own critical eye and send it off again. And again and again.

If your writing has some merit then the rejection slip might actually have a hand scribbled note of encouragement.

Now, here’s the great part…if what you’ve written is actually good the people you sent it to will send you MONEY. That’s the best feedback of all.

How do I know this to be true? Because I paid the rent, electricity and put food on the table for years doing just what I said above. Eventually I realized writing wasn’t paying enough to buy that boat I wanted and sail off into the sunset on, so I got myself a job as a deckhand on a boat and after putting in the requisite time the Coast Guard requires I got my license and had someone pay me to sail off into the sunset in THEIR boats. And let me tell you, the sunset looks pretty good in Antibes, France, and Marbella, Spain, to mention only a couple of places I’ve been paid to be.”

I understand the opinion, to some degree.  But how fucking rude, right!?  Maybe he fails to see the benefits of hearing the opinions of peers “amateur” or not.  Writers are readers.  No exceptions.  Have you ever met a writer that didn’t read avidly?  No, right?  Because how do you get a grasp on how to write a story if you’ve never read one?  And in a writing group, you aren’t there to listen to the opinions of writers AS writers, you’re there to hear their opinions as readers.  You don’t need a degree in creative writing to be able to tell someone “Your story isn’t popping off the page for me,” or “I’m not connecting with the main character and the sentence structure in the middle of chapter three isn’t flowing very well.  Stop tipping back the margaritas while you’re writing,”  or something, right?

What works for one writer doesn’t always work for another.  A friend of mine is a list-maker.  He makes list upon list upon list until he can piece together his plot.

I’m like… what the hell are the lists for?  I don’t even think that organized.  I throw my ideas on a cluster sheet, and I write freely until I find points that I like.  Then I put them into a summary.  And the post it notes?  Omg, everywhere.

I dunno, man, then this guy goes on some rant about boats and getting paid to sail which has nothing to do with his comment, really.  Aside from “I’ve gotten paid for writing AND I’ve gotten paid for sailing!”  Um.  Woo, man, good for you.  What does that have to do with anything?  o.O  Anyway.  There is my rant.  Maybe I’m over reacting, but it BOTHERED me, and it’s been on my mind.

This is the part where I make up for it by hugging people.  But I’m prickly.  I’ll send you all “I’m sorry for being a whine-ass” flowers instead.

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14 Comments

Filed under Life, Uncategorized, Writer's Group, Writing

14 responses to “My Brain’s Been Stewing – Writing Groups

  1. Hmm.

    Well, just for some perspective, my creative writing prof — who’s a multiple Pushcart Award winner, a Booksellers’ Association pick, been featured in the Best American Short Stories anthos (several times), been published in The New Yorker and the Mid Atlantic Review, as well as having several critically acclaimed and award winning novels and collections — structures all, ALL her classes on the peer review workshop setup, because she believes honest feedback from your writing peers is one of the best ways to grow as a writer. Regardless if you’re seeking publication or just writing for fun.

    So, there you go.

    And I think he was a bit snarky, too. But, like you said — different methods work for different people. HOWEVER, if you ask pretty much anyone in the writing community, they’ll tell you peer feedback is essential, because you just can’t be critical about the work you’ve slaved over and held dear to your heart for so very long.

    • ….. I love feeling validated. <3 Thank you for contributing that. My friends (other aspiring writers or intensely-regular readers) have been INVALUABLE to my growth. I don't see how their help has harmed me in any way. The other writing work shops I've gone to, as well! Always helpful!

      Thanks, again. <3

      • No problem — it’s the truth! :)

        Some of my best critiquers are readers, not writers. Because, quite simply, I can fix the grammatical stuff myself. That’s easy, and there are handbooks for that. But a reader can tell you when the Story isn’t working (no matter how much sense it makes to you), and a savvy reader can even help you fix it.

  2. Erin M

    What a poo!

    That comment is upsetting. The thing about people named Richard is that they’re all dicks. =P (Not to generalize or anything.)

    I’m totally on your side.

    Writing groups can be very helpful, so long as there are rules on reading and critiquing and everyone more or less sticks to them. I think feedback from other readers (and not just the editors/people publishing the magazines) is incredibly valuable. Actually, what I’ve found most helpful is seeing other people’s styles (and picking up tips on what works, what doesn’t, what I’d like to try), and just being in a community of people whose passion is writing. That experience is amazingly motivating and reassuring.

    So, screw him. Writing groups are awesome.

    • Erin M

      PS, I agree with what Heather said about not being able to judge your own work objectively because you’re too close to it. (I agree with everything else she said, as well =) . . . So getting feedback from others in a safe group setting is invaluable to any writer. You don’t need to make every change suggested, but it does help; sometimes people make suggestions or see things that you don’t.

    • Yes! Writing groups ARE awesome! When properly formatted, I agree there. It’s not really helpful to hear “this sucked” and no particular reason why. It’s a little disheartening.

  3. I completely agree with you. He has a point and there is some merit to it, but opinions from others are ALWAYS helpful. Even if they are amateurish, you will be able to politely take their comment and say, “well I sure as hell don’t want to write like THAT” and look out for those pitfalls in the future. And usually that doesn’t happen! A second pair of eyes helps you see what you missed, give you better ideas, and tighten your writing. Go for your library group! I think it will be both beneficial and fun :)

    • I completely agree that it’s essential to write for practice. But if you’re not going to write, why be a writer, right? And I understand that the critique you’d get from your peers is not a professional critique from a writer’s standpoint. But like I said, they’d be offering opinions as readers, and you don’t need training to like to read. (At least beyond kindergarten, for most people.)

      WOO! This was definitely a “blow off a little steam” post. XD Thanks for commenting. <3

  4. Lua

    Agrh! some people really get on my nerves! Of course you have the right to have an opinion and every right to express it, that’s why we have the comment section but express it politely with a ‘nice’ manner. Not like some wise ass who is actually NOT sorry to be raining on anybodies parade…

    I believe writing groups are very helpful… Yes, hearing the opinions of editors and professional writers can be very helpful as well but once that book is actually published, everyone is going to be reading it- not just writers & editors. That is why all opinions matter…

    • Exactly! He was posting to be a know-it-all! “I’ve been published and you haven’t and that means I’m God so listen to my opinion blahblahblah.” And I HATE people like that. (EventhoughIcanbekindoflikethat >_>)

      Getting the opinions of people who are listening to or reading your story is great because they’re unbiased. They’re not reading it and thinking about how much work and frustration was put into it. If it’s awful, they can tell you why (usually) and then you can fix it (possibly begrudgingly). =P

  5. Your rant is SO justified. The commenter has a point as far as the “sitting down every day and writing” part, but other than that? Yeesh. I don’t think anyone who wants to just get money for writing is going to be a good writer anyway. How the hell is money the best feedback you can get?! The best feedback you can get is someone actually getting something from what you write – a tear, a smile, a mood, just some joy of reading something good. The best feedback to writing well is a) you feeling that you’re writing down something meaningful to you or enjoyable to you and b) seeing that joy and meaning echoed in someone else and knowing that you’ve done what you set out to do. And anyway, plenty of people write ONLY for themselves, and then the best feedback is just that they’re writing, and that’s enough.
    Argh. I don’t even get how that guy just gets published, thinks “hmm, money isn’t great” and then goes boating. WTF?

    • YES! Thank you! Money is NOT the best feed back! (Though, it’s a pretty good reward for being good at what you do. =P) Writing is one of those things (like art, poetry, and music) that’s damn difficult to do if you don’t love to do it.

      And seriously, who cares that he gets paid to sail to France? I thought this blog was about writing…. Where did he get lost? XD

  6. I definitely see your point. As a writer, you find what works best for you, and are respectful of the fact that other writers will have different things that work for them. Just because writing groups don’t work for one individual doesn’t mean that others can’t learn valuable information from the process.

    • Writers are elitist jerks. It’s just our nature. (Most of us. It makes us fun. XD) Though, usually we’re really happy to help other writers and exchange writing horror stories, as far as I’ve experienced anyway. I guess every group has a few legit jerks who think that their way is the only way. That really bugs me. =/

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