“On Writing in General and Writer’s Groups in Particular”
Writing is something I’ve always felt drawn to. I’d read a book and think, yeah, I could write a book…someday. I actually thought I could write a better book than a lot of those I read. After all, writers do need a bit of ego, or in many cases they possess a lot of ego. With a huge heaping helping of humility, I believe I fall somewhere in the middle. Perhaps some of my friends would disagree. But with all that aside, the someday arrived. I sat down and wrote a book. I let it ferment in a drawer for ten years until I pulled it out, dusted it off, and not having a clue as to what to expect, walked through the doors of a conference room at my local library, and the heads of three men snapped around, with mouths agape they stared at me. “Who is this strange creature who has entered our sanctuary?” Their eyes darted back and forth. Undaunted, I adjusted my ego, smiled, and introduced myself. They mumbled their names. Within a few moments, a man, I now call our fearless leader, entered the room. He looked surprised but delighted to see me there. I’d brought with me copies of the first chapter of my book. I explained what genre I wrote in—cozy mysteries. One gentleman, in total disbelief, asked our fearless leader, “Is that really a genre?” The response was, yes, it most certainly is and a popular one. These fellas were writing sci-fi, zombies, and one a kind of fantasy, I think it was a fantasy, but that I never quite figured out. I trudged on. I passed out my chapters for all to read, chatted with them for a while and left brimming with confidence at the kudos I would receive at the next meeting. When I returned two weeks later, our fearless leader had hemorrhaged all over my chapter with his “red pen.” Wow! That surprised me. My ego was bruised…but not broken. I became a little defensive, okay maybe more than a little. I was sure he clearly did not understand the genre I was writing in. Oh, but he did. The more we talked, the more I realized how right he was. My chapter was awful and needed gobs of cutting and rewriting. So, I dug in and went to work.
Write with wild abandon and let it all pour out, then be brutal when you edit. I slashed more than a thousand words out of that first chapter and tightened it until it squealed. Bring the mystery up to the beginning of the book, I was told—show the reader some action—make them want to keep reading. It doesn’t matter what genre you write, you must draw the reader in. from In the words of Mickey Spillane, creator of Mike Hammer, “Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it’s a letdown, they won’t buy any more. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.” He was spot on.
It’s been three years since I walked through those doors. The three gents who were there then are now gone. Others have come and gone as well. As a group, we are now about ten to twelve strong. All at different levels of writing in a plethora of different genres. We jump in to help others along by critiquing their work. We rejoice when some win awards for their stories, celebrate each other when a book is published, and we pray for some and support them when they go through rough times in their lives. As the pastor in our group once said, we are a family. We actually like to hang out together when we are not meeting in group. We go to lunch, grab a cup of coffee, or visit at each other’s homes.
I have two published books under my belt now, which have been greeted with wonderful reviews. Another book will soon be published. Maybe it would have happened without the support and encouragement of my fellow writers, but I don’t think so. If you don’t have a writers’ group—start one. One of our writers told me her previous group started because a woman put up a simple placard on her table in a coffee shop asking for people interested in writing.
I am fortunate to have found myself in the right place at the right time. I feel blessed. I am a much better writer because of these folks. You know who you are! Thanks.
I wrote this a year or ago, but I believe it bears repeating.
Photo credit goes to WritingJourney.co