One morning as I went into my local library I saw a sign that said “Writers Group Meeting This Way”. I did a double take. What was this about?
I was struggling. I was half way through writing my novel and still had no idea if I was on the right track. I was lost. I wanted to talk about my writing, to test it and find out if it was any good. I needed help.
I found out that there were three groups operating in my local neighborhood house, each facilitated by a professional writer. Later I discovered that there were groups all over the city. I put my name down and soon found myself walking into a room with eight other people I didn’t know.
I was welcomed and introductions were made. There was man who had written and published a book, five years before and had written several others, yet unpublished. Another, who wrote short stories and had several published. Two women had already written a novel and were onto their second. The facilitator had successfully published a novel and was a qualified teacher at a tertiary level. They had all been writing for a long time and knew each other well.
It was my turn. I nervously told them I had been writing my novel for three months, had never written before and explained what my novel was about. Had I brought something to read out loud? I nodded – my novel was on my Ipad – luckily I’d brought it.
Then it was down to business. The first writer handed out pages to each of us and began reading it out aloud it was a short story. I glanced around the table and saw that everyone wrote notes on the pages. I hadn’t thought to bring a pen. As the story ended, I wanted to clap. I thought it was wonderful. The writers offered their constructive opinion as the story was critiqued and debated. The facilitator gave her feedback on what could have been done differently to enhance the ending. Corrected punctuation, grammar and feedback scrawled on the pages were returned to the writer. Then, it was on to the next person whose work was workshopped in the same way.
My nerves began to kick in, as writer after writer read out their work. The standard was high. My mind whirled with uncertainty . . . I can’t read mine out, it’s terrible . . . what was I thinking? I shouldn’t be here, I thought. Could I slink out during the break and not come back?
Then it was my turn. I took a deep breath, ignored the sweat dripping down my underarms and read the first chapter. When I finished everyone was silent . My relieved smile was returned and words of encouragement, interest and support surrounded me . They liked it!
I took their suggestions home and rewrote the chapter.It’s funny, but eight months later, I deleted that first chapter.
After workshopping my novel for almost 12 months, I can honestly say that the feedback, advice and suggestions challenged me to make my novel, so much better. This group helped me learn how to write and I thank them.