My Writers Group

I hosted our writers’ club at my house today for the last time. When Covid hit, we lost our meeting room at the library and floundered for a few months. I still wrote, because. . . that’s what I do. It’s hard for me NOT to write. I feel lost, out of sync. And after a few days, HH says, “Wouldn’t you like to spend the day at your computer?” LOL. I’m a better person when I write.

When I talked to my writer friends, though, most of them weren’t putting words on the page. They use Scribes as their motivation. If they volunteer to be readers, they have to produce something to share. But we were all being careful, not going many places, wearing masks when we did, and only getting together with a few people we knew were being careful, too. So I talked to my husband, and he said, “Why not?” Then I invited my group to meet here. Now, when we met at the library, when the meeting was over, we went to The Tower Bar and Grill to yak with each other, or sometimes in the summer, we went to the Deck at the Gas House downtown. No restaurants were open because of Covid, so I decided to make food for my group. too.

The sad truth is that it takes more motivation for me to dust my house than to cook. Some of the members thought I was being a nice, wonderful person, but the truth is, I love to cook and I love to entertain. I had a new group of people to use as guinea pigs for new recipes I wanted to try. And the second and fourth Wednesday of each month became a lot of fun for me. I got to see my friends, talk writing, and try out new things. I loved it. I just never expected it to last as long as it did. I made shrimp pizzas, Cuban sliders, chicken quesadillas, and lots and lots of soups and salads.

But the library is finally opening up and letting people use meeting rooms again. It’s time for us to go back to the norm, even though the “different” was actually a lot of fun, and it made Covid a lot easier to deal with. The good news? People are making headway on their books. And I get to hear that progress, one chapter at a time. I’ve gotten to read a few times from my new mystery, and I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement. Not just because I feed my critics either. They’re too honest to bribe:)

Life is starting to get back to normal for us, and for that, I’m grateful. But I’m also really grateful for my writers’ group. I’ve heard horror stories about bad ones. I know they exist. I’ve heard of groups that only pat each other on the back, too, but we want honest feedback. I treasure my fellow writers. We encourage each other without pandering to lackluster writing, always prodding each other to do better. I honestly think we’ve all become darned good writers. The thing we’re not as good at is marketing and networking, but we’ll have to work on that at another time. We survived Covid, and that’s enough for now.

Nothing lasts forever. Things change. So who knows what the future holds? But for now, I’m grateful for Scribes. And I’m celebrating our local libraries being open again.

Mystery Musings

Okay, I’m a writer.  Which means that when I read a book, I can’t help editing in my head as I go.  That doesn’t affect how much I enjoy a story.  I separate my editing brain from my reading pleasure, probably to the point that I don’t comment on things that bother me because I know how hard it is to write a book.  I also know how subjective my tastes are.  Things that other readers love don’t always hit me the same.  So I err on the side of focusing on the positive.  But then, that’s what I do in general anyway.  It’s who I am.

I do often think about what would happen if the author I’m reading came to Scribes, my writing group, and read his manuscript there.  Our group is eclectic.  It has a Regency romance and fantasy writer, a YA fantasy/horror writer, a newspaper columnist, an ex-addict writing a memoir to unglamorize drugs, a retired cop/philosophy teacher who’s writing about his experiences, two thriller writers, two literary members who write plays and poetry, a children’s writer, and a humor writer, among others.  And they’re the toughest critics I have.  I get nervous every time it’s my turn to read, but I’m so lucky, because each of them focuses on something different.

The last time I read, I took the first chapter of a new mystery series I want to try.  Not every member was there.  We only have a few rules and attendance isn’t one of them.  I really wanted feedback, and I got it.  I can go around our table–in my mind–and remember what each person commented on, because I know what they look for, and they don’t miss much.

The YA fantasy writer:  Where are the smells?  The description?  I want to be able to place myself in the setting, to see it.  I want more internal dialogue to know how she feels about what’s happened.

The poet:  You used too many general word choices instead of specific words.  I liked the active verbs and this phrase…  I liked the tone and voice, too.

The playwright:  You introduced too many characters too soon.  I had trouble keeping them straight.  Maybe hold off to introduce a few of them later, but good job on the dialogue.  It felt real.

The Regency writer:  I got the romantic interest right away even though you kept it subtle, and I liked the interaction between the characters.  You made the story’s big question clear.  I know where the story’s going.  This isn’t exactly a cozy, though?  Won’t you have to appeal to a different market?

The ex-cop:  You made the youngest brother a drug user.  I know that’s going to be a plot complication later.  The first chapter didn’t have the big hook, but I can see it coming.

The memoir writer:  I like how all of the characters are close and care about each other.  I can tell what happens to one of them will affect all of them.

The thriller writer:  I didn’t get bored.  It held my interest, but I like a big hook at the very beginning, something that grabs me.  I can see that this might appeal to some readers, though.  I hope pretty soon, you pick up the pace, give us something juicy.  Nothing really happened in this chapter.  It’s all set-up and hints.

The newspaper columnist:  It flowed well.  Nothing too abrupt.  The transitions made the writing smooth, but I got confused with all the characters.  Make them more distinct.

I’ll stop there.  You get the idea.  But I often hear their voices when I read someone else’s book.  Or I’m writing my own:)