For the last four (nearly five?) years or so I've been meeting with my writing group, not quite like clockwork, but about every two weeks. The three of us have hacked and slashed and encouraged each other's novels from start to finish, and gone through query letters, agent pitches and publishing challenges during that time. And of course, best of all, we have become close and dear friends as part of the process, bolstering spirits as we deal with family, illness, relationships, weddings, work woes and the ilk. I will know Anjali and Jen until I'm quite old and wizened, I am convinced. Awhile back I thought I read that Ursula K. LeGuin has been in a writing group for many many years (if I'm remembering right she talks about this in Steering the Craft). At the time I remembering thinking, wow, someone as accomplished as she is still meets with others to go over her work?! I was impressed, but at the time, I didn't really understand the power of having ongoing encouragement that comes from being part of a small group that truly cares about your work. It's invaluable. Because of my writing group I don't get lazy. I moved immediately from finished to researching my next book. I feel compelled to move on the next chapter. I get excited to turn in work for feedback. I get lost in the worlds of their books. In short, because of this group I am on the continuous hamster wheel of writing creativity and as those of you know, if you fall off, it's a massive PITA to jump back on.
I don't think it's easy to find the right combination of people for a group like we have. It's difficult to find individuals who are on the same level when it comes to craft let alone find the right personality mesh. I feel so lucky that we fell together way back when. We met through Grub Street, an amazing Boston writing community. We had taken classes and based on what we knew of each other in those classes, we decided to start meeting. We wanted a consistent but not too rigorous schedule. Every two weeks seemed like the key and for us it has really worked. One or two of us submit 1-3 chapters a meeting or we may move that around for other needs such as reading an entire book before submission. If we don't have anything, we usually still meet and instead talk about publishing, about Grub, about the craft. It keeps us energized and on target.
Right now we're in an interesting and progressive spot with our books. Jen is nearly finished, I'm looking for representation and Anjali is working with her agent on finding publication. We're riding the rocky road of publishing together and it's so good to have companions on that path. I can ask them for advice on queries and we talk about tough choices such as giving up the pursuit of traditional publishing and going the self-publishing route. It's so good to not be working in a vacuum but among trusted friends.
Last night we read the first draft of the first chapter of Anjali's next novel, set in the heart of British Indian occupation in the 1800s. I find myself still thinking of the chapter and the characters, and I'm so excited to be swept up into the next adventure beyond. It makes me even more compelled to start writing my next book to be part of the newness. I've got a lot more research to do but I'm thinking I'll do NANOWRIMO this year to get me started on the actual writing.
Our big problem though? We don't have a name! My husband just calls us "The Women," which is fairly terrible. You would think that with all our creativity we'd be able to come up with a simple title for ourselves, but alas! that's not the case. Sigh!
- Ursula K. Le Guin on Writing and Publishing (benpeek.livejournal.com)
- 4 Tips on Choosing a Writing Group (freelanceswitch.com)
- Writing groups: What can you gain from them? (kathrynspurgeon.wordpress.com)
- A Writing Critique Group Proposal (jessicaschaubbooks.com)
- If You Can't Find a Writer's Group, Join a Forum (writingishardwork.com)
- Writing Group Lessons-Learned (robinmasnick.wordpress.com)
- Writing in a Bubble (lindacassidylewis.com)