Monday, February 23, 2009

Tonight is my writing group

We’re called (temporarily, at least, or perhaps possibly permanently): These Precedes Knees. We are a group that meets twice monthly, usually the first and third Mondays. Our current roster has 5 active members, interesting, talented and multi-faceted writers culled from the various classes offered at the Loft. And while we could all be categorized generally as genre writers, each of us are writing different types of tales, ones of various length, structure and intended audiences and we have set a rotating schedule for submitting our work, so that each of us can get critiqued in turn.

All in all, it’s a pretty normal set up, one that is no doubt replicated all over, except for one important difference, at least in my experience.

Our main goal is one of mutual support, honest critique, and, if necessary, a general shepherding of each other’s work in progress (WIP) into publication. Now true, this is probably every neophyte writer’s goal, but its important to us that each member of our group is dedicated and working specifically toward that end. We’re not looking for fakers. None of us are half-assing it, nor are we interested in working with those who are. None of us are of that particular kind of halfhearted, fair weather wannabe writer, the ones that aimlessly write a bit on occasion, a few pages here, a few pages there, skipping blithely from idea to idea or maybe lingering just long enough to watch it all dry up and blow away after the first hundred pages. No. None of us are treading water, endlessly editing the same pages ad nauseam, for now and forever, tweaking their meager writing sample over and over until it’s a muddled, stumbling, unreadable mess. Nuh-uh. None of us will ever say: “Oh, I just have so many ideas… I just need to get them all down… I have it all written out in my head.” Nope. We’ve made a commitment. We’re looking to each other, not just for insightful response on our on work, but encouragement, we’re looking for reminders, we’re looking for work, continual, regular work. We’re looking for good, forward progress not just from ourselves but from each other.

We’re don’t want to talk about being writers.

We want to be writers.

And that’s refreshing, because really (as I’m sure you all know) one of the worst things about the various writing classes and on-line writer havens and blah-blah-fucking-blah-blah out there are the people who talk about writing non-stop, all day, every day, constantly, always with the opinion and the answer and the recitation of “the rules” and yet… they never write a fucking word. Never. Nothing, and yet, God damn, but you never seem stop hearing about their WIP.

I can’t stand those people.

These are the people who never submit, but always critique. AND should a passel of monkeys actually happen to suddenly fly out of my butt and they do put something up for others to read, they end up taking (the usually much needed) criticism as some kind of personal attack. The worst of them even retreat behind the shield of: “what do you know about writing, you’ve never been published!” True, I guess, but I’ve also never shit in my front yard, and yet somehow I’m still able to tell dog shit at a glance…talk, talk, talk, that’s all they do, with their half-baked ideas that are missing an ending and any semblance of original characters… You know who these people are? They are worst of the worst… they are the self publishers… they are the people who frequent the Vanity Presses.

(shudder)

This is why I stay away from the various internet writer’s haven. I mean, 1. I don’t understand how they work in the first place or why you’d want to put up stuff that you intend to get paid for, for free, for all to see or steal on the internet and 2. These weird little holes is where the worst of these weird-os lurk. This is where they find other like minded little troglodytes and hunched over and bitter malcontents from all over the planet and together they huddle in the dark, squat down and breed and rub each other off, once again, never actually doing any writing, but always discussing it and always available to misconstrue the work of others and inform any and all on how they are violating the “sacred rules of getting published.”

Its always so odd how these people can tell you in exact detail the format for a query letter and what kinds of markets exist and what book lengths are acceptable and what to never, ever, ever do and yet, are still unpublished.

Its really funny, because every actual author I’ve ever spoken to always acknowledges these rules but then immediately admit that they themselves broke, bent or completely ignored several, if not, all of them.

Its especially funny, because at this point, I’ve realized that while it’s always interesting to talk to authors about how they went about getting published, none of it is actually very helpful to me specifically, because in every single case, it all happened for those authors in different ways. There’s no rhyme or reason, its just right place, right time, right person and there are no rules consistently adhered to, with the possible exception of following the various guidelines that agents and publishing houses ask for and, of course, they had all actually written something in the first place.

And yet, go to any writer’s website forum and you’ll find gaggles of these poor, ugly fuckers with their thousands and thousands of logged daily posts, pontificating endlessly… all… day… long on their writing habits and idea generation, lamenting the evils of perpetual writer’s block and the bedeviling necessity of the daily schedules that precludes them from ever actually having to set pen to paper, all the while crying about the unfairly harsh reality of publishing today and the myriad of rejections they’ve received and spitting venom toward the poor, unlucky bastards with less total posts who make the mistake of not immediately lauding these freaks as venerated geniuses.

Why don’t these assholes just log off and fucking write?

Hmm…

Anyway…

What makes These Precedes Knees so nice as a group is that no one there is interested in excuses. A writer writes, if you’re not writing, then you’re not a writer and you are wasting everyone’s time. Our goal is to get published. Our goal is to get better. And no one in the group is going to take it easy on you, because what help would that be? These people are all hard, keen-eyed, but insightful, they pay attention to detail and word choice while keeping an eye on the larger story. They catch you, they don’t let you cheat, and you can see the improvement reflected in your work.

I find it amazing help and creatively invigorating.

So I just want to say thanks to the group for policing me and asking the tough questions and keeping me sharp. I want to say thank you for helping to make me better.

I shall endeavor to do the same for you.

See you tonight.

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