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(Non-abrasive) Commentary at NJ

Gina Holmes, starlet and site owner of the wildly popular Novel Journey, has graciously allowed me a spot on the roster. The last Monday of every month I’m afforded free reign at Gina’s crib. . . and usually end up breaking furniture, blowing out the speakers and irritating the neighbors. (However, after my previous post, I received a very nice e-mail from a Pulitzer nominated author that made me all tingly inside.) My current article is up and it’s a bit of a break from my usual caustic commentary.

Actually, Who’s Holding Your Trampoline is a semi-response to a recent Charis Connection post. As part of their Ask the Authors series, the question was posed:

Do you belong to a writing group — one that meets regularly so members can read and comment on one another’s work? Are these valuable?

It’s a pretty basic question, one that all aspiring authors must ponder. But the responses were, to me, startling. Of the ten published authors who answered, only one belonged to a writer’s group! I’m not sure what this means but, frankly, it seems a bit elitist. New writers are regularly advised to join writing groups; in fact, it was — and continues to be — one of the most important elements of my writing. Nevertheless, the authors at CC seemed fairly lukewarm to the concept. Hmm. I wonder what else being published does to you?

The first comment by Jess says it all:

Wow! Just listen to you successful girls and guys. I have to wonder why we’re all pushing crit groups and why I have two of them.

Jess, I couldn’t agree more. Anyway, drop everything, zip on over to Novel Journey, and read Who’s Holding Your Trampoline.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Ame April 30, 2007, 4:25 AM

    Excellent. Odd, isn’t it, that our humanity drifts us away from “communtiy.” Perhaps why Jesus spent so much time and effort teaching and touching lives … in community. Even when He called Zaccheas down, Jesus invited himself to a meal … He didn’t pull him aside in isolation.

    May we remember in every area of our lives that we live in community for a very good reason, God created us in His likeness, and He has always existed in community as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To be and become more and more like Him, we need community.

    And, we need solace. Jesus spent time alone … needed time alone … well, not completely alone … alone with His Father 😉 May we find ourselves in the same not-completely-alone places as Jesus. May we humble ourselves and not only receive the prayers of others, but also request them, ask for them. Riding thru this life solo only gets you so far … and where it takes you is not where I want to go.

  • janet April 30, 2007, 11:20 AM

    Just read the NJ piece. You’re right; easy to swallow. Regarding crit groups: my thoughts are that a crit group is INVALUABLE for a new writer. In my first year, I learned so many things (showing vs. telling, not to abuse adverbs and adjectives, trying to use stronger verbs, how to do dialogue without all those attributions, what an agent does…) I also received much-needed affirmation (yes, Janet, you do have potential.) Mostly, it has been, like you said, a blessing to hang with people who “get” me, who rejoice with my successes and sympathize with the rejections, and who pray for me. I also love how we remind each other WHO it’s all about. But I can see how a more mature writer could outgrow crit groups for several reasons: 1. it only stands to reason that some in a group will improve and move on, while others don’t. At that point the crit group could cease to benefit him or her. 2. As a writer grows, he finds his voice and learns to self-critique. I think he will still learn from others even without a crit group, as he reads other great books.
    Personally, I have noticed how a crit groups CAN weaken my efforts in writing. I belong to a 5-member crit group that is great. I love these gals and they give me terrific feedback and suggestions, so this problem is really about me, not them. I notice that it is possible to write a chapter, sub it, and then be tempted to simply take all the suggestions given by a crit group, then not bother really working on the rewrite oneself. That’s bad. No one will really think it through like the writer. Who will stare out the window thinking of a metaphor as long as you will? No one! No one cares about your story as much as you do or knows your story as well as you do. So, one can become a little too dependant on others to do their work for them. I’m trying to stay away from that. Okay, this is probably the longest comment I’ve ever left on anyone’s blog! Thanks Mike. And I do pray for you:)

  • relevantgirl April 30, 2007, 12:10 PM

    I’ve belonged to a wonderful critique group for over four years now. We call ourselves Life Sentence. One NF writer, one fiction writer, and me (who does both). I’m the published one (in terms of books). I absolutely need these girls. They are my first glance at anything I write. The reason I write clean prose the editors like is because of them.

  • Mike Duran April 30, 2007, 2:38 PM

    Thanks for your comments gals! Ame, I agree that to “become more and more like Him, we need community.” After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves from God and each other. Likewise, sin often propels us toward retreat and isolation. We need solace, but sometimes our withdrawal from community is a sinful mechanism — a fig leaf that we hide behind.

    Mary, I love the name of your crit group! It’s great to hear a published author affirming the value of her writing group. And Janet, I think you’ve won the award for the longest comment ever on Decompose. Just kidding. You’re probably right that “mature writers” can “outgrow crit groups.” Perhaps I am being too harsh on the Charis authors. What startled me more than that they are not in writing groups, is that THEY DID NOT AFFIRM OR VALIDATE writing groups. You would think a group that is dedicated to helping aspiring authors would encourage their readers to join a writing group. . . at least until they mature in the craft. It was the absence of positive spin that surprised me.

  • dayle April 30, 2007, 9:43 PM

    I recently discovered charis connection and I also found their answer to that question a bit odd. But odd in a good way. Due to the fact that I live in the middle of a swamp, I have been unable to join a writer’s group. (I know they have them on-line, but that doesn’t appeal to me.) So I trudge throught the writing process alone and then hire a freelance editor to evaluate my work.

    So I thought about it.

    Maybe the reason they are the contributers of charis connection is because they are writers of a kindred spirit. Similiar enough, that they naturally migrated to each other.

    The sample is skewed because they are the remnant. The minority of writers who don’t use writers groups.

    Just a thought,


  • Mike Duran April 30, 2007, 9:52 PM

    Either that, or they also live in a swamp 😉

  • dayle April 30, 2007, 11:21 PM

    I’ll keep an eye out. Don’t get many visitors in these parts so they shouldn’t be too hard to spot.

    Maybe then I could have that local group I been wanting.

  • David May 4, 2007, 3:02 AM

    Here is a life lesson I had to learn: God did not invent ‘The Lone Ranger.’ Rather a fiction writer did. My point is that the “Lone Ranger” concept is not God’s invention, but man’s (and maybe culture’s). But it is a dangerous road to travel because it gives us the idea that we can succeed (even as Christians) away from the community. The cold hard fact is that we need each other… Especially as the body of Christ, all parts work together for the whole, one part can’t say to another part “I have no need for you.” What a great illustration Jesus provided in this picture and I think it can very well be applied to those in the writing community as well as those in the “learning to write community.”
    — God Bless —

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