writing techniques

Being in a Writing Group

For almost a year, I’ve been president of a writer’s club. It’s been easy because the other board members have been an invaluable help. I’ve also been part of a critique group for several years. I encourage writers to get involved in a writer’s club and a critique group to connect with the writing community in their area and help improve their writing.

Of course, the wrong personalities can make joining a club or group a negative experience. I found these types of organizations few and easy to quit. The biggest challenge is finding a writers’ club or critique group to join.

Most communities do not have a club or group for writers. There are online ones, which I joined, too. However, the online life seems too impersonal and distant. I found meeting and interacting with people is better for my writing.

If there is no club or group, a writer could form a critique group which are small, informal, and focused on critiquing. Plus, there are lots of guidelines on how to do conduct this group. A club can be more complicated and formal with bylaws.

To start a critique group, a writer could go to the local library. Many writers come to the library seeking a group to join and libraries generally support writers. Another place to go is the English Department of a community college.

I recently went to a small writer’s conference where I met three students from the local community college. With no creative writing classes offered, they formed their own critique group with help from an English teacher. It quickly became several critique groups.

I have another year left as president. The club has been a great way to make connections with the writing community. Also, my critique group has been a great way to improve my writing. Writers should meet other writers.

Editing Again?

I’m finishing another edit of my novel. Before I wrote the book, I had been thinking about the story for almost a year. When I finally started writing, it came out fast and easy. I liked what I wrote, until I read what I wrote.

I have gone through numerous, much needed edits. While the basic story remained the same, I made a lot of changes such as in the characters, how the story started, and the ending. All right, maybe more than I thought. After each edit, I thought I had written a bestseller until I read it again. It was a non-seller.

I tried different ways to edit such as starting with the last chapter and going backward chapter by chapter. I wouldn’t recommend this. It’s very confusing and I don’t think people were meant to read a story backward. At least not me.

On this, my final edit (I hope), I focused on each scene within a chapter. I questioned everything and whether the words belonged where they were placed. I was not kind to my words. I think some were hesitant about being written down since they had a good chance of being deleted. Some took the chance, anyway.

This process required many re-readings on the same chapter, yet it seemed to work better for me. I also joined a critique group who have been great at finding things wrong. Yet, we meet too infrequently.

My method is slow, but when I’m done with each chapter I feel better at what I had written. Until, I re-read what I wrote.

P.S. The picture is Harry, a friendly Sasquatch from the 1987 movie “Harry and the Hendersons” and my recent toy.

Books on Writing

Like many writers, I read Strunk and White’s Elements of Style several times (it’s a short book). Nowadays, books on writing have more imaginative titles like Sin and Syntax, Eats Shoots and Leaves, and The Transitive Vampire.

The current books with their creative themes are good because they generate interest in writing readable English. But, we should not ignore older books on writing, even with their plain titles. Things haven’t changed that much.

I recently read A Handbook of Short Story Writing by John T. Frederick, published in 1924, and If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, published in 1938 (recently reprinted).

Both had basic writing advice that is just as good as the current books. One advice I found useful: a writer should always write to someone.

It may be a stuffed toy, an imaginary friend, God, or someone the writer knows. It could be a small audience of people, a bigger group in a specific genre, or the writer through a diary. When writing, there is the intent of a reader.

Back to books about writing.

People who write text messages, emails, notes, or shopping lists do not need to read books about writing. Those who want to communicate by writing, should.

Whether it has an imaginative title or was written a hundred years ago, writing readable English means writing so a person could be understood clearly. Whether a writer is writing to someone, no one, or to themselves, there is the hope of a reader.

Small Notebooks

I always carry a small notebook and a pen with me whenever I leave the house, the place where I have a lot of pens and papers. If I take my wallet and car key, I take my notebook and pen.

There are a lot of things I write in my notebook. Like how much I spent for gas when the receipt doesn’t print out, a list of places I need to go to when running errands, and the odd idea that comes into my head for no reason at all.

Everyone who wants to write, and those who do, should always carry around a notebook to write things in. They may be reminders, ideas to explore, or a memory to write about later. At the end of the day, the pages could end up in the trash. Yet, a lot of times there is something salvageable .

 

Quote: Writing is finding order in chaos. Reading is the act of meditation.