Thursday, June 26, 2014

Give it to me Straight

by Alan

Writing groups and early feedback - does it help or hinder your process? Why?

If you asked ten writers about their writing process, you’d get fifteen different answers. What works for one writer won’t necessarily work for another, and after having written more than a dozen complete manuscripts myself, I’ve learned that what works for me once, might not work for me again.

Yes, writers can be fickle, finicky creatures with a dependence on coffee and/or bourbon.

However, one thing that remains constant in my writing process is my need for feedback. It’s easy to slop some words down on the page, thinking that I’m saying one thing, when in reality, my work is being interpreted in an entirely different manner (hey, it happens!). I need to understand how my story is coming across to readers so I know if I’m on the right track.

The most beneficial way for me to do this is by participating in a critique group. I give them my words, then sit back to see how they go over (not always so well, I can assure you!). I can find out what works and what doesn’t. Is the plot believable? Are the characters behaving consistently? Is the pacing right for the genre? Do I have ten characters whose names begin with J? Have I dotted all my t’s and crossed my i’s?

Writers can be too close to their work to be able to give it an impartial evaluation. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting my work “out there” without first sending it through the gristmill that is my critique group. It’s a very valuable—and crucial—part of my writing process.

Without a critique group, I’d be just another writer pounding away at his keyboard, mired in self-doubt. Instead, I’m just another writing pounding away at his keyboard, mired in self-doubt, with a critique group to keep me in line.

9 comments:

RJ Harlick said...

Well put, Art. And as you know from my own blog, I wholeheartedly agree. We writers are just too close to our words to assess them objectively.

Paul D. Marks said...

I think you hit the nail on the head, Alan, when you say "Writers can be too close to their work to be able to give it an impartial evaluation."

We "see" things that aren't on the page sometimes, because they're in our heads or we miss things that are on the page because we become blind to them after a time.

So it's definitely a good idea to get outside opinions.

Susan C Shea said...

Yes, so true. That's what I learned with the one book that didn't go through a critique period. Whether it's a few individuals reading on their own, like Robin's model, or a full-on regularly meeting group, extra eyes makes all the difference.

Robin Spano said...

LOL at your last line. Isn't that why we blog together instead of separately, so we can be mired in self-doubt with the validation of the group?

Art Taylor said...

I appreciate the reference to bourbon, Alan.... and also appreciate RJ calling you Art. ;-)

Catriona McPherson said...

It's been total coincidence that I've not been around this week so far - I'm in edit hell. On the other hand, I'm in edit hell fixing the pacing, character-consistency, believability, and undotted/crossed i's/t's of a draft produced without a critique group.

Back to it . . .

RJ Harlick said...

Whoops, I blew it, eh? Sorry, Alan. I wasn't too wide awake when I tapped that comment. Tomorrow it's Art, right?

Art Taylor said...

No worries, Robin. What's funny is that not only do folks in our local MWA chapter sometimes confuse our names--but Alan and I are in the same writing group, and sometimes it's happened there as well. :-)

Alan Orloff said...

Art's the one with all the awards; I'm the one with...well, Art's the one with the awards.