Writing is more than fun and games…

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Enjoy the journey.

Writing should be fun, if I’m going to spend hours at a time doing something as intense as writing can be, it should be enjoyable. But fun isn’t all writing should be either. There are as many reasons to write and ways of experiencing the act as there are people who write. That’s part of the brilliance of writing from my perspective. As the Vulcans say, “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”

If my message is going to reach an audience, my writing has to be more than fun for me. It has to be readable, fun for others, and my meaning has to translate from the words on the page to my readers’ minds. That takes more than fun and games, it takes time and practice. For me, it also took a critique group.

Writing isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Learning to write well takes more than talent, inclination, and good grammar. All of those things are helpful, necessary even. But none of them take the place of practice with feedback from other writers who are on a similar writing journey. Uncle Bob and your next door neighbor might both have great experience with reading and writing, but if they aren’t writing fiction for publication their helpful suggestions are as likely to be wrong as helpful.

For me, finding a critique group of fellow fiction writers has meant the difference between hobby writing, and writing to publish. It wasn’t fun and games either. Learning to my chagrin, that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was hurt. Accepting feedback about how I wrote, and what I was writing was soul crushing.

None of that feedback was meant to hurt, although my ego screamed and gnashed its teeth to the contrary. It was meant to make me a better writer. Which is why I encourage everyone who is serious about writing to find a critique group.

I thought my first submissions to the group I’ve been with for the past few years were gleaming pearls of literary excellence. Those stories and chapters were not excellent, but I had no prior experience working with other authors. I had to learn to let go of a lifetime of writing crutches, uninformed ideas, and bad habits. All of which was no small effort, I assure you.

They don’t teach this stuff in school.

Outside of a Fine Arts program, or maybe some modern online workshops, there is little discussion of how to write fiction, especially novel-length fiction. Most new writers, myself included, have to work through mastering aspects of craft that make our work stand out from the crowd of aspiring writers.

Good grammar doesn’t teach you to show instead of tell (or when telling fits the narrative better). Sustaining an individual Point of View instead of hopping from one head to another doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Grounding dialogue in the physical space where my scene takes place is not common discourse outside of writing circles. I had plenty of talent for writing (pardon my remaining ego), but nothing beats the experience of having your words torn apart and put back together by a more experienced writer. It’s humbling to say the least.

Writing stagnates in a vacuum.

A critique group (online or in person) is essential to improving my work. Not only does working with a group of other writers hone my craft, it shows me things I would never see otherwise. Each perspective in the group is different from mine, and each brings observations about my work that I could not make otherwise. Likewise, reading their work opens my eyes in ways I could not imagine either.

The members of my critique group write stories I would not. They prefer genres I don’t write. And although the stories are decidedly outside of my interests, the techniques they use are the same. I am able to see beyond the genre into the mechanics of the story, and in the process, recognize when they do something I have done (good or bad) before. As much benefit as I get from their critique of my work, I benefit even more from critiquing their work.

If you are serious about taking your writing beyond the hobbyist level, I cannot recommend strongly enough, get into a critique group. Preferably one organized to promote improved storytelling, led by experienced authors. The wrong critique group can do lasting damage to new writers, so be sure the emphasis is on improving all aspects of your work, not just grammar or one writer’s minor pet peeves.

Whatever you do, keep on writing!

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