A Time for Collaboration

I know I promised you tidbits about my upcoming novel, An Irresistible Shadow.  For those of you who are dying to know, it will be released on September 13th from Breathless Press!

Now, onto today’s topic.  Collaboration.

Writers by nature are solitary creatures.  Most of us are introverts and prefer to be left alone to pursue their craft.  While this is true for me, I love having fellow writers nearby, in case I need some moral support or a shot of creativity.

Robyn is one such writer.  I keep her close.  She is a fount of invaluable information and creative inspiration.  There have been many times where we discussed our works and were able to push through the blocks hindering our progress.  We began a project together, kind of a fun project just after the insanity of NaNo last year.  We call it Bedroom Four.  It has four main characters.  She took two, and I took two.  Robyn and I have very different writing styles, but for this story, we chose the direction of our characters and then found a way to blend them together with a common theme.

Unfortunately, due to both our schedules, we are unable to work on Bedroom Four at the moment. But, we will return to it at some point in the near future.  This delightful taste of collaboration made me want to do it again.

This time, I found a partner in the most interesting of places.  My best friend’s husband is an avid reader, but not a writer.  While we chatted about writing one day, I told him about a new story idea I had.  Before I knew it, we had all the characters, setting, and most of the plot lined out.  Now, it’s a collaboration.  I couldn’t have gotten this far, this fast, without his help.  The story is taking on a life of its own and I love it.  You can have one hint….Twisted Fairy Tale.  Have I sufficiently teased you?  Good.

It seems that this moment in my writing career is about collaboration.  And I’m okay with that.  I like seeing someone as passionate as I am about the same project!

I’m still learning…how to share, how to not take criticism personally, how to negotiate, and how to resolve conflict.  And I believe collaboration is a great way to teach me these things.  To be a well rounded writer, I must be open to all things.

So how do you feel about collaborations?  Would you try it?

The Value of a Critique Group

Writers, as we all know, are fragile creatures, and we feel vulnerable when it comes to exposing our work-in-progress. So why should we join a writing group and place ourselves in jeopardy? The main reason is obvious: writing is a lonely profession, and the camaraderie of others sympathetic to our struggles can keep us sane. Writers comfort and nourish each other.  The publishing world can seem heartless these days, and it’s reassuring to discover that the rejection we invariably face is not really personal. – Corinne Demas

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Do you attend a writers group?  Is it a group that mostly provides information or do you also critique each other’s work?  If the former, consider finding a Writers Critique Group (WCG) group also.

A critique group can be a priceless asset to an aspiring writer.  Feedback on your work and suggestions for improvement are a big part, but only a part.  Consider this:

 Benefits:

  • Thoughtful critique of your work
  • The opportunity to critique the work of others (you’ll learn a lot)
  • A gentle way to develop ways to cope when someone doesn’t like what you’ve written (developing a thick skin you’ll need if you ever want to publish)
  • Exposure to other genres and styles (and ages; diversity is good in work and members)
  • A supportive framework for revision
  • Learn to be comfortable sharing your work

You can learn a great deal by reading another writer’s work and providing comments because it forces you to notice the mechanics or sentence structures that don’t feel right.  Getting feedback from a group gives you a feel for the difference between a passage not working and someone’s personal preference.

The worst reason to join a writing group is because you want to showcase your work. Writing groups involve give and take; you will spend more time on other people’s manuscripts than on your own. If the group is successful, you will have the pleasure of seeing your feedback improve a colleague’s writing, and you’ll take pride in their published work. (And be thanked in the acknowledgements!) – Corinne Dumas

A WCG can also serve as beta readers.  A member of my WCG is my primary reader as I am hers because neither of us has spouses who want to read our stories.

 Warnings:

  • You’ll get what you give so make an effort, but be wary of others who don’t.
  • A few ground rules are a good thing.
  • Let your WCG know what type of feedback you are interested in, especially if it’s rough and you are nowhere near ready for punctuation feedback.
  • Even experienced authors can have their feelings hurt by thoughtless remarks.  Be kind.
  • A WCG is not a place for the bitter or the jealous.  The goal is never to pick apart or shred each others’ work, but to tell people what they are doing right, which parts fall short, and where they could improve.
  • I cannot stress this enough.  Do not join a group of critical writers who would rather rip your work apart than help you improve it.  Conversely, don’t join a group that says everyone’s work is great as is.
  • Learn to take and give constructive criticism gracefully.  This isn’t the place to go with a tender ego or defensiveness, either.

Don’t be afraid to mention that your work has gone through a critique group when you shop it around.  It shows you care and want to do your best.

And one last thing…just because you might move away doesn’t mean you have to leave.  Our WCG meets once a week via Skype.

Ten Reasons to Cultivate Relationships with Other Writers

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  1. Other writers understand when you make a mad dash for paper and pen in the middle of a day out.
  2. Other writers understand when you mourn a recently deceased character.
  3. Other writers understand that having voices in your head is normal and does not indicate mental illness.
  4. Other writers make great beta readers (and sometimes primary).
  5. Other writers are not bothered when you mentally check out during a conversation to “listen” to a story idea.
  6. Other writers know the process and the work, which helps when your family or spouse doesn’t “get it.”
  7. Other writers are a great source for writing prompts, scene ideas, and plots (we all generate more than we can use ourselves).
  8. Other writers celebrate with you when a character goes off script and the story gets interesting.
  9. Other writers don’t think you’re crazy when you start a sentence with “I can’t believe my MC is arguing with me over…”
  10. Other writers confirm and support and validate your identity as a writer.