So you’ve decided to become a writer. Good for you. You’ve written something, and your Mama tells you that it’s the best thing she’s ever read.
But therein lies a problem. Your mother may love you–and I hope she does–but just like a spouse, lover, or even a best friend, she may not wish to offer you any useful criticism. After all, she brought you into this world and feels proprietary interest. Or perhaps she’s the type who will find something wrong in whatever you’ve done. And then there’s the question of how much she reads. If your book is the first one she’s finished cover to cover–or crayon-covered sheet of notebook paper to crayon-covered sheet of notebook paper–she doesn’t have much to go on.
So what is a new writer to do? You could hire an editor, but we don’t come cheap, and it’s best to get some writing skills in you before you seek professional help. What you can do is join a good critique group. Good being the operative term here.
I’ve been a part of some mutual admiration societies. Those are fun, particularly when they involve tea and cookies. But that’s all you can reasonably expect. What you need is a group of people who will not care about your feelings, who will tell you what works and what doesn’t, and will walk you over to the shredder to dump your work in, if that’s what is needed. They’ll also guide you to do better.
How do you identify that kind of group? One good clue is whether there are professionally published writers as members. They’ve been through the (wretched, soul-ripping, blood spilling) process before, and just like Obi Wan Kenobi, they will set your feet in motion and guide you along the path.
If you happen to be in the northwest Arkansas area, here’s one example: The Old Wire Pen and Poison Society. We have professional editors (including yours truly), published writers (also including me), and a group that will speak truth to your palaver (or recognize your genius–who knows?). We meet tomorrow (that’s Tuesday) at 6:30 p.m. in the Starbucks in Barnes & Noble across from the Fayetteville mall. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more, especially for future dates.
In any case, get thee to a meeting–Hi, my name is Greg, and I’m a drinker with a writing problem–and keep reading, keep writing, and keep submitting.