Wednesday, August 5, 2015
INSECURE WRITERS SUPPORT GROUP: Trusting CPs
Insecure Writers Support Group posting sort of crept up on me this month. Not that I haven't given it any thought; so many ideas that went bye-bye as I . . . meditated on the month gone by. Throughout the month. You know; like, knowing Christmas is coming and you need to shop, but its weeks/days/hours away and still ya got nothing.
My initial idea for today (tomorrow) was just to say HELLO, I got nothing to say but will visit the linky and pretend I'm friendlier than I am. Of course I miss all of you bloggy friends. But, something did come up last minute. Not for me; no insecurities (I'm drafting a story idea so I don't care that it looks more like a plot summary with vague links to research or future action) and have nothing to boast about except the fact I'm occasionally working on a writing idea.
But, I'll relate a writing related experience with my critique group, and hope they don't mind the lack of a heads up.
I'm involved with a varied group of nine authors. We have online meetings every two to three weeks depending on group schedules, and share documents with DROP BOX. We are all in different stages of writing/publication experience, and write in many different genre's. What we have in common is a love of good story reading, and a willingness to accept constructive feedback. They all knew me as a blunt critiquer/reviewer, and accepted me anyways. Kewl, yes?
One of my CPs is Alexia Chamberlynn. Awesome author of magic and urban fantasy, and she has self published her first novelette BLACK MAGIC AND MOJITOS (available for preorder here). Not to brag (yes to brag) but I was honored to crit this novelette prior to its publication. Like, 2 seconds before. As I'm really not a YA/NA reader and most of today's Urban Fantasy feels like YA even when its not (think Lost Girl and Supernatural, or Charmed if you're that old), most of my feedback centered on setting, forward progress, and technical issues. Of course Alexia had to endure my sarcastic remarks regarding eye rolls and quirky sarcasm of the main character; but she is used to my blunt style and doesn't take offense. Maybe she smiles sometimes while reading my remarks, who knows, she is a pleasantly optimistic individual.
The thing I like most about my writer's group is that everyone is secure about their skills as writers and genuinely wants honest feedback; but also knows when to trust their own instincts and when to get out of their own head. The purpose of critiquing is to offer advice/feedback, based on your own opinions and experience. The author can accept what is given, or reject it, or come up with alternatives that combine author and partner ideas. Many of our "hot seat" meetings turn into brainstorming sessions that could be intimidating to less confident writers. Ask an opinion in our group and you will get it. Often served with cheese, wine, coffee, or whatever confection is appropriate for the time of day. We take our writing serious, not ourselves.
But, it did feel like all of two seconds between Alexia submitting her chapters for critique and her announcement that she had self published the story as a novelette. We did not even get the chance to roast her story on the hot seat to discuss our impressions. I wondered: did she even read any of the feedback?
Apparently she did. I guess Alexia is just a fast writer/revisionist when motivated, and perhaps she already knew where some of the problem areas of her story were and just needed the collective to reassure her that her story/character instincts were working. She sent us all an ARC of the novelette, and today (yesterday) I had a few moments to download it to my Kindle and open it.
It was a quick read, as I knew it would be, and very much a YA Urban Fantasy/magical realism action/romance adventure. Well written and paced, intriguing concept, kick ass main character and secondary characters, sexy and capable love interest, extensive use of magic. I love a supernatural story that isn't afraid to use all the gifts and skills the characters possess, and they don't apologize for who/what they are. The published version is very much improved, but not much changed from the draft submitted for critique. If I were into modern urban fantasy concepts I'd likely give the story a 5 star rating and be eager to read the full length Zyan Star novel when it is available.
The point of this post? It takes a strong/confident writer to accept all manner of constructive feedback, and judge its merit. Some day perhaps an aspiring author will land that coveted agent/editor/publisher and experience far worse critiques than a like minded group of hopefuls can offer. Or even receive a review from a stranger reader who doesn't know the work and agony that goes into the creation of a story, no matter how long/short.
My advice is this: If you want only compliments and encouragement, share your writings with your adoring family and friends. If you want to improve your craft and put out a quality product, seek out a group of other writers, grow a thick skin, be appreciative of the opinions you solicit, but know your intended audience and what story you wish to impart. Be confident and humble
Congratulations to Alexia on the publication of BLACK MAGIC AND MOJITOS, and thank you for letting me be a part of the novelette's creation.
Don't forget to tip (as in visit) your host Alex J Cavanaugh, and this months co-hosts Nancy Gideon, Bob L Milne, Doreene McGettigan, Chrys Fey, Bish Denham, and Pat Garcia.