Writing is by its very nature a solitary occupation. Even if you have a co-writer, only one set of hands can rest on the keyboard at one time. That’s why it is so great to be able to meet other writers to talk about writing.
Yesterday was our monthly meeting of Malice in Memphis mystery writers group. Last week was the monthly meeting of the River City Romance Writers. And every Friday (or almost every Friday) five of us meet at the local IHOP as a critique group. It’s scary to think we’ve been meeting for years. Not always exactly the same group, but mostly. Not always the same venue, but mostly.
A good critique group is a pearl above price. I have been singularly blessed.
Our group writes different kinds of stuff. Time travel, mystery dinner theater, thrillers, romance, romantic suspense and mystery, historical and contemporary. We share one thing, however. Each of us wants the others to succeed. I must admit I was for a very short while a long time ago in a much larger group—too large—in which at least two members were invested in destroying the self-esteem of the other members in the group. Valuable criticism is one thing. Attacking the talent or skill of another writer is simply mean-spirited. I firmly believe that if you point out a problem in somebody’s manuscript, you should offer a viable solution to fix the problem. Not always possible, but the attempt should be made.
And we were all unpublished at some point. Some of the best writers I’ve known have not been published yet. A good deal of that is luck.
One of my friends received a contract for a time travel several years ago. Her closest friend was refused a contract for a romantic western a week later.
They lost the friendship. Her friend could not forgive her for getting published first.
Unfortunately unlike a lot of careers and accomplishments, being published is the touchstone writers are judged by all too often. Tell a stranger at a cocktail party that you are a writer, but unpublished, and watch his eyes glaze over with that dismissive stare. Before I sold my first book, one of my colleagues at Memphis State University, where I worked, said over lunch, “Isn’t it nice you have that sweet little hobby.” She nearly wound up with a horrendous dental bill. I wanted to slug her.
There was a TV commercial several years ago in which the spokesperson said, “Everybody deserves to be published.” Oh, no they don’t. Our task is to keep learning and working so that we deserve to be published. So join a good writers’ group, find a wonderful critique group, go to workshops, read, listen, and most of all write, write write. Than if you’re lucky enough to find an editor who loves your work…