Monday, April 19, 2010

Righting My Writing

When you’re an unpublished author, you know the odds are against you. You have to have faith that you will someday be published. I trust a group of people I have never met with my faith.

These two people are in my writing group. We came together through Girls Own, a listserv that discusses boarding school stories. It had taken me a few weeks to get comfortable with telling people I was writing a book. Somehow, emailing this list seemed easier than saying it in person. I mentioned I was writing Quads and got an email shortly after asking if I wanted to join a writing group.

I live in New York and the other two members live in San Francisco and England. Roughly every three weeks, we exchange a chapter and then about a week later, we write up a one-page critique. Sharing my work is something that makes me feel extremely vulnerable. I was a little scared - and a little exhilarated – the first time I attached my chapter and hit send. I had butterflies in my stomach when I got my first critiques back. I still get a thrill when I get a critique in my in-box, even though we've been exchanging chapters for roughly two years.

I don't know why our group works so well. Despite our very different subject matters (modern boarding school story, time slip novel and a grown-up book) and writing styles we are all very close readers. We pay attention to plot and characters but we also focus on word choice, language and dialogue. I think we also have the ability to be tough in our feedback but in a way that doesn't devastate the writer. There are times when I'm sure that I'm making the right decision with my writing. But there are other times when I’m not sure about whether to gamble on a phrase or change in plot. The feedback from my writing group is a great guide.

I know that getting published is hard, even if you're a really good writer. Sometimes I daydream that some day, maybe five years from now, the three of us will be in the same bookstore, reading our works and signing a special copy for each other.

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