It’s been more than a month since my writing group met and I’m beginning to feel the kinks that come from missing a workout. We were supposed to meet last Friday, but due to conflicts, changed our meeting to Wednesday, December 21. (You do realize that’s four days before Christmas, Tam pointed out. We didn’t care, though, because we had to meet.)
I’ve been thinking about my writing group a lot since the hardest revision ever, which I think is a funny name because the next time I’m faced with some revision work, like I am for my current professional WIP — Can you, like, totally rework all of the chapters you sent me in June? last week’s email read — it will then be the hardest revision ever, because it is quite possible that the revision in front of my nose is the hardest ever.
I sent out the new beginning and have been thinking a lot about the different roles each of the members play in my writing life. They are all crucial. A long time ago I read a post by Natalie Whipple about her crit group. I went back and reread it. It’s worth the read…and inspires me to consider the “arsenal” of my crit group. Like Natalie, I am blessed with phenomenal crit partners, with a wide variety of strengths.
Tammy makes me feel like I can do it. She makes me realize it’s okay to slow down and eat pie or drink end-of-the-school-year punch with my family. She completely dotes on me and makes me feel like the life I’m living is worthwhile.
Tam gives me perspective and insight. She always looks at things from a different perspective than I do, and I adore her for this. She is my go-to person for titles, quirky language, and conventions. She says things like, “You really don’t like the comma or exclamation point, do you?”
Mary Helen is bubbly and happy and understands the crazy-chaos of life. She inspires me to keep putting words on the page because I watch how hard she is working to do the same. I know writing isn’t easy for her, yet she comes back to it again and again and again. It makes me do the same. Mary Helen reads closely and gives me insight into teenagers. She tells me when they’re off in my story and when they are behaving like teens. She helps me think of the tiny defining details. She gives me lots of positive feedback, but she’s brave too, and tells me when things aren’t working.
Ruth knows my YA work better than anyone, maybe even better than myself. She listens. She lets me ramble on about the characters, who they are, what their back stories reveal, how they interact, what they like, what they don’t — and she talks about them like they’re real. She’ll read my notebooks and say back to me what she notices. She peppers my drafts with questions, letting me know when it’s reading true (or not) to the character and when it feels right (or not) to the reader. She helps me see things I missed because I’m too close to the story (or too busy trying to avoid going where the characters are leading.) She’s honest, but gentle, and let’s me know when I need to quit following a road or when I need to relax and see where the characters lead.
I could not be the writer I am without these women. I’m struck by the way together — as a group — we can be what one another needs. Our writing lives are vastly different, but a single group can meets these diverse need. It’s remarkable. If you are writing, then I encourage you to find a handful of people to meet and share your work with…it’s one of the best ways to grow.