I am writing, live-blogging, tweeting, doodling, and chatting up a storm with MarketingProfs peeps and social media-lovin’ folks in Seattle for the next few days.
All that fun plus rain, coffee, art, and the aquarium? I just might fall in love with the Pacific Northwest…
Be back in a few, m’dears.
Though not a huge fan of Jane Austen, I do love “Pride and Prejudice” (the non-zombie original). So, when I was window shopping on Etsy and saw this print from Alice Flynn, I just had to share it:
No, I did not write 16 blog posts in one day. However, I did move my articles from another blogging platform to this lovely welcoming space in WordPress.
Now, it’s time to start getting to know the neighborhood.
Good editors, like good writing friends, encourage, and push you to write better, to stretch out more, to express yourself in clear, honest language.
A solid writing group (whether just one other writer and you, or a small group of writers) does the same.
Traits You Want
Need to find a writing-group friend? Consider that you’ll probably want someone who is:
Unpublished, published? That doesn’t matter. But you’ll want someone who has enough confidence in their own writing that s/he won’t be all hesitation and sounding like Piglet. “Oh, d-d-d-ear, I could never wr-write.” Heck, no. You want someone who has embraced the frightening, wonderful, surreal and fulfilling (did I mention frightening?) vocation of being a writer.
A good writing friend cares about your work—without smothering your ideas under their own or monopolizing the conversation (unless it’s all right with you). The writing friend gives you the right amount of time needed to talk out a concern or idea. They can spare the time and attention.
If you’ve written something crummy, you’re going to find out soon enough. How? It’ll be in the form of a rejection letter. How much better to have a good writing friend who can save you time and energy up front. S/he can tell you when a project needs to be polished, explored differently, put aside for a while, etc. And when you write something genuinely awesome, you’ll want that friend to share that happy thought, too. (You’ll also be more likely to believe him.)
You may have a dozen good friends who are fabulous at knitting, bricklaying, cooking, hair-weaving, beekeeping, but a writing-group friend needs to be someone who recognizes good (and bad) writing. I can show my manuscript to a friend who never reads, and s/he may love it, but the opinion won’t hold the same weight as one from a friend who has read quality books extensively. (Yes, I said “quality” books. I’m a snob like that.)
If your writing group has action items (like “I’ll have a scene rewritten by next week”) or a regularly meeting time, you’ll want someone who doesn’t flake on you. We all get the same 24 hours a day, I don’t want mine wasted by someone who thinks my 24 hours aren’t as important as hers.
The above list is also a good reminder of how we should be with others in our writing group, too. So, what are the traits of someone to avoid as a writing-group friend?
Traits to Run From
A crummy writing-group member is:
- enamored by the starving artist idea
A person who romanticizes a writer’s life, who feels that literary greatness will only be achieved after he is dead, and his hidden valise of writing is found … Well, that’s a person who is not dedicated to being published now.
A writing group involves give and take. You don’t want to get stuck with someone who only cares about his work and hogs up all the conversation. Writing groups cannot be dominated by one person.
The person would be as awesome as Flannery O’Connor or C.S. Lewis only if the ignorant publishing companies would see how freaking talented this person is. And you’re treated like Igor to his Dr. Frankenstein, being told what to do, and expected to admire the mad person’s genius.
- a genius who only writes a first draft
Writing is only half of the writing process. Really. The entire writing process—the whole procedure in getting a work completed—involves rewriting, reworking, reorganizing, re-everything-ing at certain points. Truman Capote said, “I believe more in the scissors than the pencil.” If your potential writing friend does not believe his work will involve rewriting, then that person is dedicated to always being mediocre and unpolished … and unpublished.
Maybe this person wants to write. Maybe not. In the course of every writer’s life, especially during a stumbling block in the plot, a writer will question her sanity. (Steven Pressfield even wrote about when a story goes awry in his Writing Wednesday post.) That’s normal. However, a noncommittal writing friend is one who rarely shows up with writing samples or sometimes gets sidetracked by other creative endeavors.
- sarcastic or snarky
Snarkiness has recently replaced wit. But I don’t care for it. Unless I have to accept snarkiness because we’re working together at my place of employment, I won’t hang out with sarcastic people. And writing groups can feel like breeding grounds for snarkiness.
The true competitor is in competition with his own personal best. A writing group shouldn’t be about whose book is at the top of an Amazon list or featured here or there. Yes, those are good things, but no one likes feeling small. So, don’t choose writing friends who build themselves up by tearing you down.
I could go on, but I think I’ve given Negativity the microphone long enough. And I want to encourage you to find writing-group friends who have the good traits mentioned above.
Have any thoughts or tips to share?