Thursday, August 13, 2009

Playing Nice

Oh my my. Moonrat posted about feuds between writers. Tact, people, tact.

Many of her commenters mentioned some, and also mentioned how aggro writing groups seem to be. In fact, one commenter said:

“…feuding…is the major reason I avoid writer's groups like the plague. I have a dear friend whom I consider to be a far superior writer to me, and yet she's never had a book published because she allows her "writer's" group, containing mostly people who've never been published, to tear her manuscripts and self-confidence apart, so she never submits.

I don't do writer's groups and I've had 9 books published, all but three by major publishers. I'm a solid mid-list author, which may not sound like much to brag about, but I'm proud of what I've accomplished. And of course, I aspire to writing my way up the list.

If I had submitted any of my manuscripts to a writer's group for comment first, I'm sure I never would have mailed them off. Seems to me the main function of most writer's groups…is to make sure NO ONE in the group gets published, because that would upset the balance of power and create all sorts of problems with the group's perceptions of publishing reality.”

Yeah, confidence is a pisser, isn’t it? I personally haven’t been in my writing group for that long, but I don't agree at all that they're destructive. While I have seen some evidence of self-confidence issues emerge in my group (including my own, at times), that’s definitely up to ourselves to manage as a professional. I had to come to terms very quickly with how to take criticism. Giving criticism is sometimes just as difficult as getting it, which is why most people who love you cannot give you a lot of feedback. They don’t want to destroy you if your writing is horrid. It really goes without saying that if you find a writing group is unsupportive of your work or your career, get out of it and find another one.

I’d like to say what feedback HAS done for me: it’s pointed out plot holes, unrealistic scenarios (my favorite review is when someone says “I’m not buying this”), and made me question the deeper meaning of what I’m saying. This is important because I don't like to question anything. Of course I don't--it's hard work to think! Critiques have also taught me how to stay true to my theme or message. Overall, I’m pretty sure writing groups are a sanity-check, a way to make sure I’m not getting ahead of myself. And I wonder if some published authors who no longer use writing groups might write better for it. Imagine if I had four books published already, and STILL made the mistakes I’m making! Guess what—-overworked editors might not catch them—-but your readers sure will. So take every opportunity available to you to edit yourself.

And for God’s sake, thicken your skin. If writing groups crucify you, what will mean reviewers do?

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