Yesterday morning, 8am. My eyes sprung open, and even though it was Saturday, I bounced out of bed. Why? Because I wanted to re-read the excerpt from my novel-in-progress Tangled, due to be critiqued by my novel writers’ group that afternoon.
Seeing as yesterday’s meeting is still fresh in my mind, I thought it was the perfect time to tell you about our group (aptly titled A Novel Idea) and how we operate.
Our first meeting was in March 2007, and over the four years we’ve been running, our membership has changed quite a bit but the purpose of the group has remained the same. And what is that purpose, you ask? Hold your horses, I’m getting there! Our purpose is to discuss work-in-progress issues, share discoveries and problems with like-minded individuals, and be motivated to keep persisting with our manuscripts.
Every person in the group is actively writing a novel, right now. We’re all at different stages – some are slogging away with the first draft of their first book, some are close to completion, others have several books on their bookshelf with their name on it (like Ian Wynne, last week’s HOT SEAT victim).
About two weeks before our monthly meeting, one member (me this month) emails a segment (approx 5K) of their work to the group. Group members read the segment and prepare feedback, which is given one by one at the meeting, followed by an open discussion about the segment. This approach has positives and negatives. It’s surprising how much you can tell about a person’s writing strengths and pitfalls from just 5K words, and you can provide the writer feedback on this. You can also provide them with feedback about how the characters are portrayed within the segment and whether the plot seems plausible, which can be very useful.
The drawbacks lie with the size of the excerpt – depending on where it comes from within the overall plot, it can be difficult to understand the context, which impinges on our ability to give holistic feedback. However, this approach is the best we’ve come up with to meet our time constraints – the majority of us (including me) have other significant commitments (like full-time jobs) so can’t devote much time to the group outside of our meetings.
Drawbacks aside, I adore our monthly meetings. I believe the critiquing sessions have helped many group members (including me) improve their writing. One of my favourite things about the meeting is simply being with like-minded souls – people who are as passionate about writing as me, and who enjoy talking about nothing but writing for hours on end.
We support each other through our writing journeys, cheering someone on when they provide a great excerpt, helping them improve excerpts that aren’t so great, and bemoaning the industry with them when they don’t hear back from a publisher for months on end.
How about you?
Are you part of a writers’ group? Is it similar to A Novel Idea or completely different? How do you structure your meetings? If you’ve blogged about your writers’ group, please link to your post in the comments. I’d love to hear about how other groups are run and what you get out of them.
You may recall that last week, I set myself a deadline of 5 September for micro-editing the first third (51K) of Tangled, which equated to editing 10K a week. I’m pleased to report I managed to edit 13K in the past week, and reduce the chapters in question by an average 22%. Very happy with that! (Being stuck at home with a tummy bug for two-and-a-half days helped with finding the time.)
And on that delightful note, I shall sign off. Happy writing! 🙂