Julia Writes: Connie is writing a book and I am writing a book. (Not the same book. ) For the first time ever, we are writing at the same speed, more or less, while attempting different types of fiction. Connie has had a book in her head for a long while and never put it down on paper. I wrote a murder mystery about 20 years ago and am using it as the background story to another tale, both set in the same place in Europe (in a city I once lived in).
The other day she tried to tell me not to fret, this is not a race, and that she will always be there to read my chapters when they are ready. I must have panicked a little since I have a new class starting in mid October and my time to write will be more limited. As I explained to her, I am panicking not because I will stop, but because once she is through, her energy will change. Right now she is just trying to get it down on virtual paper, and it feels to me like she is on the crest of a wave.
I am hugely benefiting from her energy as she is, mine. We meet approximately once a week. We each bring two or more copies of the chapter that we intend to read. When it is my turn, for instance, we both hold a copy of my chapter while I read it. When it is the other person’s turn, same thing. We comment on what we like and what “bumps.” And that, in a nutshell, is the way a writer’s group works. The literary adrenalin is fabulous. We both feel it afterwards and go back to writing our next chapters. energized and inspired.
Connie writes: Julia is SO right about everything she mentions above. Writers do feed off each other’s energy—when they have good working relationships with other writers, that is. Julia and I continue to marvel at how wonderful it is that we found each other. In theory, you wouldn’t expect it would be that difficult to find another writer, or even two or three, who are at the same skill level (or better) than you are. With so many folks writing books, how hard could it be to connect? Well, I can tell you from experience, it’s incredibly hard. Critique groups—and here I’m talking the old fashioned, face-to-face, group where writers sit together at a table and read their work aloud while the others follow along on a printed copy as Julia explains above—are an important asset . . . but only if the writers in that group are as good or better than you are. If you mix talent levels, then the normal result is the top one or two writers wind up teaching a writing class (for free) to those less experienced. That’s okay on occasion, but if it becomes the norm, than those top writers are getting very little—if any—positive energy from the group, and in fact are more likely to feel drained of their writing energy altogether. Julia and I don’t write the same type of books, but we write at the same level. That’s why we get so much out of sharing our work with each other.
As you see from the date of this post, we aren’t being as vigilant about checking in weekly as we’d planned. But alas, that’s actually a good thing, at least for us, as it means we are pouring our time and energy into writing books that we believe are going to sell the old-fashioned way: via the agent to publisher route. Personally, I don’t expect to get there by writing a novel in thirty days, but to those writers who are participating in that monthly contest, I wish you all the best of luck. Now I’m going to enjoy the rest of my Sunday, which will mainly entitle thinking about what I’m going to write tomorrow.