Friday, November 11, 2011

Writers' Groups - the good, the bad, and . . . the weird?

Right up front, let's get this off my chest: not all writers' group members are good.  Specifically, some are like a cancer.  Thankfully, I've only met one.

And if it wasn't for my daughter, sitting in a stroller next to me (looking as cute as always), I would've walked out and never returned.  I could've walked out with her, but it would've been a hassle.

Writers' groups: the good, the bad, and the weird.

There's so much good about these groups, I could go on and on.  First, you get the social interaction with fellow writers.  Sure, if you happen to be one of the more veteran members of the group, the others will look at you for guidance.  That's okay.  One of our number one topics, other than reading what we've written for that meeting, is just the act of sitting down and writing.  I'm fairly determined and make sure I write something every single day.  I've been told on numerous occasions how much inspiration I cause in others because of it.  And, knowing you have a meeting soon, will also push you to get something to share.

Another good point to a writers' group, and probably the most important, is reading each other's work.  There are many ways to do this, and others I haven't thought about, but I'll leave this for a future blog.  Frankly, it's very numerous and I'll get into more details then.

We've had a few weird members too, although I can't really call them members.  A few years back, an elderly gentleman came to our group, because he had a story to tell but didn't want to take the time to write it.  He wanted us to write it for him.  Sorry, that's not what we were about, but we were polite enough and listened to him.  In the end, we kindly told him we all have our own stories to write and share.  He seemed a little off by it, and on occasion attended a few other meetings to see if we changed our minds.  We hadn't.

The bad.  Unfortunately this came in the form of one of our founding members.  I will not mention names here, and I will also try not to even give the indication of male or female.

This member wrote stories, memoirs mind you, about her past when she lived in another country.  She (oops, it was a female!) wrote beautifully, with great prose, although she always seemed to hate what I wrote and nitpicked each and every thing.  I wrote horror at the time (still do, but now it's more thrillers and fantasy).  My first three novels are horror-genre, and I've written a number of short stories in this genre too.

On the meeting date in question, I shared a gruesome story about two teenagers (although, if I recall, I never said their ages but it was implied), and it was my attempt at flash fiction. (Flash fiction are extremely short stories, usually just a few pages long).  Anyway, at our next meeting time, she shared a different story than what she normally did.  This was a story, narrated by a group of teenagers, who were sitting out in the hallway and waiting for their next class.  They spotted one of my children (yes, she mentioned my name in the blasted story) and the teenagers debated kidnapping him and torturing him, simply because I was a famous author (in the story) who wrote gruesome tales.  I took it as a personal sting.  Now, I can take attacks at me and not take it personally.  But when it's directed on my kids . . .

This person also seemed to exhibit an aura of arrogance regarding her writing.  She did this by completely destroying our own stories.  I would even write, at times, and in the back of my mind would think, "What would _____ say?"  But I soon quit and just kept writing what I loved, regardless of what others think.  On another occasion, she critiqued another of our member's writings about her early days on the farm and wanted to know more about the mechanics of farming.  Sorry, but the best writing is about characters not an essay on farming implements of the early twentieth century.

(I should note right here that she moved away years ago)

Take it for what it's worth.  Attend (or create) a writers' group, knowing the good, the bad, and the weird are out there.  But that shouldn't keep you from doing what you love: writing.

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