• Julie Jeffs
  • The Next Step: A follow up to "Wanted: A Wrting Partner"
The Next Step: A follow up to "Wanted: A Wrting Partner"
Written by
Julie Jeffs
October 2010
Written by
Julie Jeffs
October 2010

We learn best to listen to our own voices if we are listening at the same time to other women -- whose stories, for all our differences, turn out, if we listen well, to be our stories also. -- Barbara Demming Last week I wrote a post titled, “Wanted: Writing Partner”. You can read that post here. I received an amazing response, friendly support from both long-time friends as well as strangers, offers of partnerships and critique’s, and stories from others who struggle with the same issues. So now the questions looms, where do I/we go from here? I have never participated in a virtual workshop where we critique each other’s work online. I am not necessarily against it but for me it raises some interesting issues. First, I think we all know about non-verbal communication and non-verbal cues we give when we are face to face with someone. I think those things can be invaluable. When sitting in a brick and mortar workshop you can watch the reaction of your listeners. Is there something they are confused by or don’t understand? How do you make up for that in virtual critique groups? Second, and this has most to do with She Writes – who am I really to be commenting on other people’s writing. Am I a published author? No. Do I have a degree in creative writing, an MFA? Absolutely not, in fact I don’t have a degree in anything but that’s the subject of some other post. There are “experts”, if you will, here on She Writes. They offer their services to all of us members. But, those services are not free, nor do I think they should be. If I take this issue to its next logical step, which to me would be starting some type of virtual critique group with many of the people who were kind enough to post comments to my blog, am I in some way luring people away from paying for those experts’ services? I also believe that when reading your own work aloud to a group you can yourself recognize problem areas, poor grammar, lousy storytelling (I have been guilty of all three I’m sure). You miss some of that in a virtual group. Funny thing, after I wrote my first post I also made some comments on twitter about my “loneliness” in my writing, my desire to find someone else to interact with and bounce ideas off of. A twitter "friend" from thousands of miles away who doesn't really even know me re-tweeted my tweet and lo and behold there she was. She is local and a She Writer (although that is not what brought us together). Charissa and I met for coffee and hit it off. I guess that is an understatement, we met for coffee and when we left after talking about ourselves, our lives and our writing realized we had just spent three and a half hours together. We made plans to try to make it a weekly meeting. If any of you are in the Nashville area you are welcome to join us, at least give it a try. I am open to all kinds of ideas about how to get better at the craft of writing, getting feedback on my work in progress and trying to give honest constructive criticism to others who want it. The biggest issue for me these days really comes down to trust. I have written often of my loud, obnoxious internal critic. In addition, I’ve written often of how I sometimes pay far too much attention to that critic. But, I also think sometimes you have to trust your own gut about your writing. I have found myself recently wondering if you are putting your work out there, either to friends or strangers, in a group, or paying someone privately, how do you know they are working in your best interests? Whose advice do you take and who do you politely ignore? And for those of us still new to the entire process how do we know? Just dumb luck? Or is it one of those trust 'em til they steer you horribly wrong? Have you ever had a reader who you realized later did not really want you to succeed? Who said they were helping you but you found later gave you bad advice, knowingly? Or, am I just getting paranoid. I’d love to know if others have felt this way. So She Writers, what do you think should happen next? For you, for me, for all of us here? As you will find in the comments of the last post, Kamy Wicoff said, and I wholeheartedly agree that it was the most beautiful demonstration of what She Writes can be. So you know, I am more than happy to read others work at any time. If you want comments, I’m happy to make them. I'm glad I understand that while language is a gift, listening is a responsibility -- Nikki Giovanni

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  • Kathleen S. Allen

    Everyone has their own opinion about what is good and what they like, that's the problems with writing groups. I started one with all YA authors and we were on the same page (so to speak) about what each one thought was good so it worked out well for us. Alas the group disbanded...