Tag Archives: Friends

The Importance of Others

I have touched on the subject of online writing groups a couple of times before but this time I would like to come at it from a different angle. I thought I would share a bit about what I love about one of the writing groups I am in and then see what some other writers I know have to say about a group they are in as well.

There are all kinds of online writing communities. Some are straight-up critique groups, others are for folks all with the same publisher, some are there for people to shameless self-promote, and still others are there to help with motivation, word counting, and goal tracking.

I am in half a dozen online writing groups on Facebook incorporating all but the shameless self-promotion, but I have to tell you my favourite group of them all brings in all the elements and then some. As someone who is generally annoyed by people but is also fascinated by them and values friendships this group is a little slice of internet heaven for me.

Here are just a handful of the things that make this writing group my first destination in the morning when I open up Facebook and usually the last place I visit online before I got to bed:

  • Advice in this group is never dispensed without someone having asked for it. 
  • There are no agendas.
  • It is not political (except for a unanimous distaste for the current U.S. President).
  • Occasional shameless self-promotion is welcome, but more often than not group members are promoting other group members. 
  • It is not always about writing. Friendship and emotional support are in abundance. 
  • Inappropriateness is high, but respect for everyone, their beliefs, and their experiences is paramount. 
  • It is diverse, not just in writing experience, but in age, gender, and geography. 
  • There are two different views on the Oxford comma (those who are in favour of it and those who are wrong). 

As you can see, there is a lot there to like. But I am just one person. So that is why I reached out to a number of writers I know who are either in my favourite writing group or another one of which they are fond. Here’s what they had to say:

“I love our group. No downsides. We are shoulders, soundboards, and friends beyond multiple borders. Filled with people who changed my life in more ways than just writing.”

“This group is about respecting and caring for one another and the work we’re doing, rather than using one another for our own means.”

“Respect, encouragement both in real life and fictional, friendship, love and a true safe space amidst the faceless 1’s and 0’s of the digital social media universe.”

“As one of the few members who hasn’t had any fiction published, I like being in this group because I still receive a lot of tips and pointers, encouragement for my non-fiction writing, and encouragement to get off my ass and actually write some fiction. There’s more to be had here: lots of love and respect, a lot of humor… and some of you are just darn cute.”

“I’d heard that anyone can achieve their writing goals simply by hard work and honing their craft, but I have discovered that’s nonsense. Behind every Harry Potter is a Ron, a Hermione, a Mad-Eye Moody, and a Dumbledore. Everyone needs a team, a group of people you can trust, be yourself with, even if you’ve got a bit of the Voldemorts that day, and share in your victories. I was lucky enough to be invited into a group like that and I would urge others to find their peeps and stick with them.”

“Unfailing, unquestioning love and support, including a well-aimed kick in the ass when it’s needed.”

“It’s a safe, non-judgmental place for [us]. No one cares if you are a newbie, a wanabe, or a published author. People will listen to your ideas or concerns and offer advice when asked for, hugs when needed and lots and lots of talk about no pants and cookies which just makes my day 

There you have it, folks. The votes have been tallied and the results are in. Writers, who are stereotypically known for being solitary hermits who hammer away at a keyboard in some writerly-looking cave only coming up for coffee and chocolate actually value the interaction and camaraderie that comes with being part of a community.

I, for one, couldn’t be more thrilled. It is nice to know that you are part of something bigger than yourself and even nicer to know that there are so many of us out there who value the importance of others.

~ Andrew

Exposing Yourself

(…and other tips for new writers)

Some time ago I took a few paragraphs of my novel and posted it to a couple writers’ groups and my personal wall on Facebook. It was the first time I had let “the public” read anything I had written (the short story I had published last year was only seen by my wife and my editors). The feedback was wonderful and supportive from everyone and the critique that came in from the writers was helpful. It was a gut wrenching experience.

Those were just a few paragraphs though. I had written an entire novel (and fired the cupcake cannon), but there was still SO MUCH work to do. So much work! At this stage the whole thing was a disjointed passive voice character smorgasbord blarg of word vomit. In the 25 Steps to Becoming a Traditionally Published Author I had only completed Step 6. If you read that article (which I highly recommend everyone does even if they are not writers) you will see that the next step on the list involves “major surgery”.

I’m not a surgeon. Hell, I only took one biology class my whole life and it was a first year university course I took in my fourth year for the easy credit. In a similar parallel, I’m not a writer. Well, I am a writer, but I have limited formal training in the craft. The task in front of me I’ve never done before. I haven’t even seen anyone do it on TV. This was going to take a lot of reading / learning / crying and a little bit of help.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBDF04fQKtQ?rel=0]

So, I read a few books; novels written by people I knew. I paid attention to how the dialog sounded in my head and to the cadence of the prose. I went back to my notes, the ones I jotted down after I put those few paragraphs out there. Then, I sat down and took a chapter from my novel and gave it a little more shine. I cut a bunch of stuff that didn’t move the story forward, tweaked a few things to “show” instead of “tell”, and I firmed up the dialog. To keep a promise I made to my wife I plunked the chapter on Evernote and sent her the link.

Step 8 in the 25 Steps article (which I still highly recommend you read) is to give your book to someone you trust. Well, I trust my wife, but there’s 240 more pages of surgery left before it’s ready. I knew if I didn’t get some more feedback soon the rest of it wouldn’t be worth reading. So, I took a deep breath and pasted the link into one of my Facebook writer groups.

New Writer Tip #1: Find a supportive writers’ group and actively participate.

I posted my thousand words to the group with a request for people to give me their thoughts. Pressing “enter” was the easy part. Settling my stomach down afterwards was significantly harder. It didn’t take long for the critique to start flowing. My eyes instinctively jumped to words I wanted to see. Much to my dismay “amazing” and “award winning” weren’t anywhere to be found. It was still early but I was getting the feeling that the Giller Prize would have to wait.

What I did get were many excellent suggestions about how to turn certain phrases differently to achieve this or that, helpful comments about wanting to know more about my main character, tough but fair critiques about certain parts, and a dash of ego boosting praise about my dialog. All in all what I got out of this exercise far exceeded my expectations.

Was it worth it? Yes.

Will I do it again? Absolutely.

With every chapter? Absolutely not. 

My goal is to get better at this so I can write a readable novel without having to crowd source the major edits and rewrites that I should be doing on my own. It’s going to take a lot of work, and because I am really lazy it’s going to take a lot of time. The good news I won’t be going at it totally alone all the time. I’ll have a little from some friends who don’t mind seeing my work in a naked state.

New Writer Tip #2: When exposing yourself keep an eye out for stiff prose.

~ Andrew