I’ve been in a number of writing groups over the years. For a long time, it was the main way I made myself feel like a writer. Eventually, my hectic schedule managed to elbow writing group out of my life, and it’s been about four and a half years since that happened. In the intervening time, I haven’t really found a good mechanism for getting feedback on a regular basis. When I was out in Utah in January, I was talking to some authorly friends about it, and I decided to give it another whirl.
The current plan is to meet via Google Hangouts (or something like it) once a week. There will be 4-5 of us total, and submissions are capped at 5,000 words each. That means each week I’ll have up to 20,000 words to read and critique, which will certainly be an added item on my To Do list, but in return, I’ll get 5,000 words of my writing critiqued. Yay for that.
Better yet, the plan is to have our meetings during the day. Lunchtime here on the east coast. One of the biggest drawbacks of my last online writing group was that we typically didn’t start our meetings until around 9pm my time. (As I remember? I could be wrong on the exact start time . . .) We had members from Utah to Maine, and so it had to be late enough for people to get home from work in Utah and get kids squared away before we began. With this new writing group, we still span the country, but a good number of the members (all but me? not sure on that one) are full time writers. And if there’s one thing full time writers have going for them, it’s flexibility of schedule. So they’re all able to meet in the morning in Utah/Idaho, so that we can meet at lunch for me.
How am I going to carve out time to do this? Well, I already spend time each weekday jogging in place. (Yes, I’m still doing that.) I’ve actually been known to mute myself during phone conferences so that I can jog in place during them as well. Usually I’ll watch movies, tv shows, or Magic: The Gathering videos while I jog and eat my lunch. On Wednesdays I’ll just jog and offer writing critiques. In other words, my hope is that all I’ll be “giving up” for this is the time I’ll spend reading the submissions. And since I’ll count that toward my yearly goal of a book per week, even that won’t really be giving up time. The whole endeavor shouldn’t make an impact on my overall busy level.
But even if it does, in practice I think it’s worth it. My approach to writing right now is to write a first draft of a novel and then shelve it for 6 months, at which point I drag it out, reread it, and give it a second draft. The only person’s input I typically receive on it is my own. From there, I send it off to my agent, and we bounce it back and forth for a while. My hope is that with some good critiques from a writing group, this will show a marked improvement in the process. Plus, writing is often a solitary process. It’s good to be able to hear from other writers. Double plus, I’m already a fan of two of the writers in my group, meaning I read their stuff anyway, and I really respect their skill level. (Even if one of them already admitted that they liked Parasite. I’m trying not to hold that against them . . .)
All-in-all, I’m pretty excited for the new adventure. Wish me luck!
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