The Journey Part 2: Enter the Writing Group

Lou: I would like to welcome Julie back to The Book Pushers :D. If any of you missed it, here is Julie’s first guest post.


(Apologies to readers for the delay in getting this second installment up. Life, as it so often does, happened and put everything on hold. I will endeavor to be more consistent from now on.)

When I finally started writing again, I was really excited by this project I had in mind about how the “coming out” of supernaturals completely destroys one girl’s life. The first time I sat down to write though, ten pages proved such a battle that the doubts began creeping back. I couldn’t do it. I was a talentless hack.

Then I read what I’d written and cried. It was worse than I’d thought. Too many years spent writing poems, term papers, and science exams had stolen my ability to write a story. Instead I’d written the beginning of a report on the book I wanted to craft.

I gave up, convinced that the nay-sayers had been right all along.

Then something remarkable happened. The couple people I’d stupidly shared my disaster with asked when they’d get more. It was crap! It was beyond crap! Why would they want more?

So, with fear in my heart, I re-read it and ended up excited about the story again. There were no delusions about the pages before me though. I didn’t exactly crumple up the original and toss it, but I did start over. I plowed ahead, my faith renewed.

That happened shortly before I discovered Kelley Armstrong’s novels and joined her internet forum. And blessing of blessings, at the bottom of the list of forums was an online writing group. Still nervous about whether or not I had an ounce of talent anywhere in my body, I held off joining the OWG for two months. Eventually I realized that if I was serious about writing, I needed real feedback.

So, for the first time in my life, I threw my work out there where other writers could tear it apart. The first critique came in, and I held my breath as I read it. Hey! They liked it! This isn’t so bad. Most of the critiques were similar: generally positive with just some little points that needed fixing.

Then I got her crit; the one I’d been dreading, even after I thought I’d stopped expecting it. Sure, she had good things to say, but she tore the chapter apart. It was brutal, and I spent the rest of that day in tears. The next day though, I said to myself that it was just one opinion. After all, everyone else liked it. And I went back to writing.

The next month, she critiqued me again. And the month after that. Every month, I waited for her comments to come in, desperate for her approval. After four or five months, she finally said something about how “nothing had happened yet” in the story. It was the slap in the face I needed. She was right. I’d posted chapter upon chapter of set-up.

After another night of crying, I decided to set that story aside. I needed to completely re-think it, and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated) loomed right around the corner. I took a deep breath and decided to dive into November with a new idea, determined to knock the socks off the critiquer whose comments I’d come to both need and dread.

For better or worse, because of her, my deep-seated self-doubt had been replaced with a frantic need to become something more than a hack who just churned out mediocre stories. Because of her, I wanted to become an author.

9 thoughts on “The Journey Part 2: Enter the Writing Group”

  1. I’ve had crits leave me in tears before, too, but I send everything I have to that person because he’s pushing me to better than I ever imagined. The OWG (Kelley Armstrong’s onlinge writing group) has helped me in ways that I never expected. Joining was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

  2. Absolutely Dani. I’ve posted segments that have been torn apart, and made me feel like I was a talentless hack. But after I’ve calmed down and read what they said, and then re-read my writing with their perspecitive, I’ve found that they’re usually right (but sometimes they’re way off too). Usually, if one person comments about something, I make note of it and think about it. If more than one mention the same thing, I take a good hard look at it and change it. The OWG has forced me to grow and learn and develop a thick skin, and my writing is all the better for it.

  3. Great post Julie, I think writing groups are a good thing. The OWG has helped and encouraged me to write and to continue it.

    Good post. x

  4. I really enjoyed this. I had similar feelings when I posted my first piece up in Kelley’s OWG. There’s that moment when you have to move past the ‘I really suck’ and commit yourself to improving your craft.

  5. Julie, you paint a familiar picture. Nice piece. The more you put into a writing group, the more you get out of it. Keep writing. Whatever you all do, just keep writing.

  6. Great post Julie. 🙂

    As a writer writing in a foreign language, the OWG really helps me .

    I learnt a lot and continue to do so. The critics I receive even the ones that can make me cry and doubt (in fact often these ones) – help me to improve my writing.

    Moreover, with a writing group, you are with people who “know” what it’s like to write, to struggle with a scene, to doubt that someone might be interested in what you want to share on the paper.

    But you will also be with people that can give you a good kick in the butt to make you realize that even if you believe in your story, it doesn’t mean that you “perfectly” wrote it. We often need a fellow writer eye on our work to realize what is amiss.

  7. I help mod a writing group on a board, and have found that it really helps to have people who will lay out what they catch you on, and give you a chance to look at your own work over time and realize errors of your own.

    I am also sometimes the one who gives the “dreaded critique”. I had one recently where I went through two rounds of writing and comment for the person and only the third time around did I get my nerve up to tell the person that the work was both starting with an info dump and not actually painting it with any detail.

    I’m glad you mentioned the “nothing has happened yet” issue; that’s something I’m guilty of. I do set ups, and no plots, fearing I’m going to fall into cliche.

  8. I remember when you first joined the board. I remember when you first joined OWG. Seems like forever ago.

    Here’s a little something to perk you up. For me, YOU are the one that “need” to impress. You’re always the one that I think of when I’m writing something. More often than not, I think “What would Julie say about this? What has she said about this (enter sentence, scene, whatever) in the past.” And, it was also YOU who encouraged me to re-join the OWG.

    So thanks, my friend. I love you.

  9. I’m not in the same OWG as you, but I know if I ever manage to finish my mean, nasty MS, it’ll be your opinion I’ll really want. You’ll be the person who I know will be brutally honest and I know I’ll dread it, but I’ll also know if you like it, then I did something write. Your dedication and your skill amaze me constantly. I love you too.

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