Creative Writing Clubs!
Why Join a Writers Group?
A humorous look at creative writing.
Creative writing tends to be a solitary occupation. Some writers are at ease working amidst the hubbub of family life, typing away at a laptop on the kitchen table while the kids whine about homework, the dog barks wildly at the postman and the plumber is unbunging the sink. Most writers, however, quickly discover that they can get an awful lot more done if they have P&Q. That's peace and quiet, in case you didn't already know.
Some writers turn the spare bedroom into a home office, and woe betide any rash intruder. Most of us, however, have to be a bit more accommodating.
One author of my acquaintance has been known to hide behind the tomatoes in his greenhouse so he can meet his publisher's deadlines. Another shares his writing space with the household laundry, and has been heard at Riverside Writers meetings mumbling about the problems of creating inspired fiction while rows of his wife's knickers are drying mere inches above his head. One lady squeezes in a half-hour of writing each day during office lunch breaks, while valiantly protecting her laptop from escaping blobs of mayonnaise. Another gets up at 5am in order to put in one hour's writing before hubby and her teenagers' uproar threatens to loosen a few more roof tiles.
While real writers write - and not just talk about writing - they also like to talk about writing. Those who do not share our fascination with imaginary creatures, invisible friends, world domination or post-apocalyptic drama have eyes which tend to glaze over quickly at even the most fleeting mention of an Oxford comma.
And so, tremulously, often in fear of mockery or contempt, the new writer approaches a crossroads in their life: To join or not to join a writers circle.
The time arrives when an opinion of a new manuscript is sought. Hubby and the sprogs know only too well that they'd better be flattering or they'll be dining on burnt toast and porridge for eternity. If only they'd learned to cook, hmm?
Other relatives, too, will back off from causing inter-family WWlll. They will recall all too clearly the devastating effects of mentioning how Aunt Mable's hand-sewn party frock perfectly matched her new curtains, or how Cousin Jeremy's home-brew caused an outbreak of dysentery. Some opinions are best left unspoken. Alternatively, outright lies in the form of complements are preferred by many, though discovering that the reader didn't make it beyond page two will make even the most polished of silver tongues will lose its shine.
Likewise, seeking literary critiques from work colleagues is too fraught with office politics to even contemplate
The writer is therefore left with the option of seeking out other writers, who will hopefully give a reasonably honest opinion on one's creative endeavours.
The ever-expanding internet offers a huge array of online writing groups. Trying to join them all would rapidly become a full-time job, and that's before each group's forums have been browsed through. Pick one or two lively sites, which are frequently updated and not too cliquey, and which offer quality writing rather than eye-watering drivel - of which there is a universe-sized haystack to sift through, unfortunately.
One real problem of publishing writing online is that a traditional publisher will then consider that First Rights have already been used, and therefore will be highly unlikely to consider that piece for conventional publishing.
Another potential problem is that another writer (or someone who wants to pass themselves off as a writer) might steal your work and claim it as their own, even publishing it on their own site. This could easily happen without your knowledge. And while imitation is supposed to be a form of flattery, and Copyright exists on everything automatically, law suits to prove ownership can be a pain in the wallet.
So, the nervous new writer joins a group of other writers. Some might be published already, some might never have written a story since they left school long decades ago. The chances are that they too have quaked in their boots at the prospect of reading aloud their work to a group of relative strangers. Or complete strangers, even. They too have experienced their own voice going squeaky, or knocking knees, or finding that one's mouth has rebelled and refuses to clearly pronounce the simplest of words.
If they seem unsympathetic or snooty, try a different writers group. Or you might start your own. Writers clubs can be invaluable for receiving feedback, and for encouraging each other to keep on writing even when the garden's weeds are eight feet high and the dust over the fireplace lies deep enough to sculpt a copy of Michelangelo's David.
If you don't want honest critique, don't ask for it. If someone queries why your heroine is habitually foul-mouthed and bolshy but is supposed to be irresistible to all, and the navel-gazing and steamy sex leave room for around 15% (or less) of actual plot, don't throw a hissy fit. Instead, consider that they may have made a valid point.
Equally, no-one is obliged to agree with a critic. Look around a library and acknowledge how many of the books there are of interest to you. How many would you pay £20 for, or £10 for, or just £1 for? How many have you read even though they're free? And yet an agent and a publisher both considered all those books worthy of publication and of financial investment. To put it another way, opinions are like noses; we all have one. Beware critics with false noses - or, in other words, those who pick faults just to win attention for a few minutes.
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© 2011 Adele Cosgrove-Bray
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