February 15, 2009

WRITING ADVICE: Lin Oliver: Be Part of a Community

While I've been a member of a couple of writer's groups and communities, none of them have been tremendously helpful. Maybe it's my definition of "helpful"? If I'm going to be part of a writer's community, I have certain expectations:

1) The group should be professional and non-emotional in its critique of my work and/or career plans.

2) The group should be "on top of" the trends in whatever genre they mostly write in and they should know the writers in that field as well.

3) The group should be at the same place in their writing or very nearly so. Too much difference would make for people being unable to WORK TOGETHER.

4) The group should be people WORKING TOGETHER.

5) The group should be able to tool itself to be a sometime forum to discuss issues and concerns that directly relate to writing.

Maybe I expect too much?

The first group I auditioned for had me share a story for critique. I was moving toward being a professional and I needed to see if they could help me grow that way. So I submitted a story I'd recently sold to an editor from CRICKET MAGAZINE. The individuals in the group unanimously told me that the story wasn't ready for submission yet. One included the "fact" that kid's magazines don't buy that "science fiction stuff" -- especially not the highest ones. I declined the group's invitation to join.

My second try was a group that was looking at expanding. It was an open invitation and after sitting with them at a coffee shop, we declared ourselves compatible. Until one of the members quit their day job to write a SF novel. When they shared it with us, the group found it to be...not spectacular. Our critiques sent the writer screaming into the hills where they write reviews for a bookstore newsletter to this day. The second member wrote two novels without me (I don't know how much the other member critiqued) -- I didn't have anything to do with their career. They wrote a third novel a decade later plus a few short stories...then disappeared. The third wrote a slough of short stories, was published widely and influenced the genre. Then they wrote a first novel and a second novel. Their third novel garnered a major SF award. The person wrote a fourth novel based on a movie -- and disappeared to start a new family and live life. I stayed in touch with them and was recently invited to write for their blog.

I had to work for another ten lonely years before getting my first SF sale to a major magazine. I sold several pieces over the next few years...then hit a brick wall. I've sold only a few things in the past four years, only one or two in the genre, one of which got a Nebula nomination! I joined a couple of professional groups and while they were very professional, I don't know that they've helped me or nurtured my growth as a writer.

All this to say, that I am not a fan of writer's groups and they haven't worked for me -- and I will be part of one of the professional communities, but continue to pretty much write on my own. I wish I could be more positive about this one, but...well, that's just me. You probably have GREAT stories to share! So, share away!

1 comment:

William said...

I found my first writing group to be most helpful when it came to accountability--setting goals and then explaining how you met them (or why you hadn't). Peer review was most useful when I was a new writer--then found I began to anticipate what people would say, and even started writing for approval--not good. When meetings started opening with 20-30 minutes of personal "sharing"--and when people started bringing more and more food treats--I knew it was time to move on. I'm grateful for the group--but I really work better on my own.