I decided to step back from my Writer's Group. This was no easy decision but one I have been contemplating for about a year. I've found that being critiqued while writing, for me, is just not beneficial. While I believe writer's groups are well-intentioned and can be very useful, I also think there is a time and place for them. If you have three finished manuscripts under your belt, then you might be ready for a critique group. But if you are still in the throws of a first draft, it's time to pull away from critiques and just write.
Being that I am beginning a brand new novel, I decided not to write this one "by committee" and instead become very solitary and write my novel. However, with that said, summer is usually the time that I research a new project and write a solid outline so when my kids return to school in the fall I am all set to roll up my sleeves and get down to business. With that said, even though I am on sabbatical from my group and will not open pages up for critiques, I will do Summer Writing Buddies and here's how it works...
Anyone can form an online group like this. All you need is like-minded people who are decisive, creative-thinkers, and dependable. I think it's best to actually do this via the phone and not via computers but that is not always feasible so I will give you the online version. If you know someone the phone will work with then switch Virtual Meeting with Phone Meeting.
The first step to Writing Buddies is a plan. You each decide if you will "meet" weekly or monthly. Then you email each other your FULL summer goal list before your prescribed day to e-meet. For the first meeting you each take some of your goals that you think you can meet in the first week (or month if you decide on monthly meetings). When listening to the other writers' goals, see if you have any additional suggestions they might want to add to their week's list. It can't be just anything. It has to match the goals they've already set for themselves. For example, if someone says, I have to beef up my dialogue. You might suggest that they hang out at the nearest Apple Store on a Friday night and write down dialogue they hear from a gaggle of teens. Now, just because you suggested this as a goal doesn't mean that writer has to take your suggestion.
The next week that you e-meet for your Virtual Meeting (VM), you speak more specifically if you met your goals, why or why not, and what you learned from that week, as well as set new goals for the new week. After the VM you then email each other your new list of goals and then the whole process repeats throughout the summer months.
Summer Buddies DO NOT critique one another. They simply listen to goals, offer additional goals if helpful, and help identify patterns of behavior that might be counterproductive to meeting those goals. For example, one summer I was having trouble writing because my kids were home for the summer. It was that summer that I discovered headphones. They not only blocked out the noise but for some reason I focused more intently when they were on even if no one was home.
If you are just beginning a new draft or novel, give Writing Buddies a try. Here are my summer goals and then how I broke them down for this week only:
My Summer Goals:
- I will read and research America's history as well as a few other countries' to see what really needs to be in place in order to have a break down in the government.
- I will talk to historians in local colleges or online
- I will NOT focus on pages. That is NOT my goal this summer. That is my goal for the fall. The summer goal is really to think, read, percolate, read some more, take notes, brainstorm, dream, meditate to meet my characters, etc. I will NOT allow myself to rush this process or allow myself to be swayed. Stick to my process, honor it, and believe it's possible - I can write and complete a novel in a year.
- I will watch shows, movies, etc read about what experts say the future looks like as far as technology, environmentally, "governmentally," etc.
- I will re-read From Where We Dream and use that process to brainstorm this story before I do ANY WRITING of it at all. This is actually my second priority. Reading and research is number one. I need to fill my brain with the stuff this story will be based upon and THEN brainstorm.
- After I've brainstormed every possible scene, I will put them in an order that makes sense to me and from that I will generate my outline.
- If, and only if, I meet all of the above goals, I will then write very rough, very short chapters for a first draft writing in the fall. These chapters can be as short as; Ch 11 S. kisses A. - and that will be OK. I will know there will be time in the fall to really flesh out the chapters.
My Writing Buddy and I had our first phone meeting this morning. From that meeting, here are my goals for this week:
- Get title of history book from my father and begin reading it this week. Take copious notes.
- Get title of sci-fi book from Cathy and start reading it this week. Take copious notes.
- Watch the Minority Report. Pay close attention to how the movie presents this dystopic America and why the viewers accept it without question.
And that's how Summer Writing Buddies goes. If you're interested, start a group of your own. All you really need is one other person. It's very helpful to tell someone your goals. It keeps you honest and on track.