I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!
In praise of writers groups
January 10, 2018
It's been a little while, so I thought I'd check in and tell you what I've been doing and learning. I jumped back into a few writers groups, only this time they are online. I was a member of a couple local groups during my first year of working on the novel, and they were helpful but not as beneficial as the online groups.
Largely this is because of time and convenience. A local writers group typically meets weekly or bi-weekly at a set location and time. That limits you if you have a conflict and also spreads out your potential interaction with other writers. The online groups work on a simple ratio/credit system. Members submit chapters or short stories (5,000 word max,) and other members volunteer to critique it. You complete two critiques and that gives you one credit which you can use to submit something yourself. So the more quickly you critique others, the more quickly you can submit your own chapters (at the local groups, I was lucky to get to read my work for critique more than once every 4-6 weeks.)
This particular site is called Inked Voices. For $10 a month (or $75 for a whole year), you can join as many groups as you like. What I've found the most useful is to participate in 2-3 groups... I then stagger my submissions so each group acts like a filter. I take all of the input for chapter 1 from group 1 and then apply everything I feel is valid to improve the chapter... then submit it to the next group and see what they have to say. I've discovered, by group three there are FAR fewer corrections or even suggestions and many more positive and encouraging comments.
The best thing is I am LEARNING to write better! Over the years, I've fallen into the habit of rereading what I like... which typically means reading old books I read in high school. The problem with that is I have little to no idea what modern literature is like in terns of pacing and flow. Literary devices common in even the great works from 50+ years ago don't go over well with editors looking to sell lots of books today.
I'll give an example I recently learned about: distancing filters. This is when you say of a character "He looked over to see a riderless horse coming up the road toward him." That sort of sentence is very common in older writing. Today editors want to be 'inside' the character to a higher degree, and telling the reader the character is looking at or seeing something puts the reader 'outside' the character. Today's version would simply assume the characters point of view and read like... 'A riderless horse came up the road toward him.'
There are a couple dozen other little writing lessons I've learned over the past couple years and I'm getting better at applying these rules when I write, and more importantly as I edit what I've already written.
OK I guess I've typed enough. I think this might be my longest blog post here. If you are curious as to where I am in my process, I plan on putting my entire book, chapter by chapter, through at least two if not three of my writers groups. That will probably take some time. Also I'm planning on going to the Las Vegas writers conference in April. If by that time I feel I have a finished and polished novel, I will begin another phase of querying literary agents. I might even start that process at the conference itself as participants get to pitch the agents at the conference.