Importance of Writers Groups

As I mentioned in a previous post, I joined a writers group in October (2016).  I missed four of our weekly meetings due to the holidays.  During my absence, I was inspired to write a series of short stories for a collection I’m calling 12 Gifts.  Each story highlights a different service organization, informing readers of specific needs in the community and inspiring them to get involved.  Three of the twelve short stories are written, and I edited His-Story to share during this week’s meeting.

Before I wrote this story, I considered the interactions between the five characters–a young boy, his parents, his grandfather, and a WWII veteran.  As the plot unfolded in my mind, I hurried to get the words on the page.  I researched military uniforms and the Battle of the Bulge along the way.  I included words and images synonymous with military life.  For example, the boy had a buzz cut and referred to adults as ma’am and sir.  The veteran’s apartment was tidy, and he expected structure throughout his day.  To be honest, I couldn’t wait to share the story with the group.

NOTE:  I identify myself as a “plot-first writer,” focusing on the plot points while having a general idea about the characters when I sit down to write.  I mold and twist the characters to improve the story as I go, jotting important information on index cards.  Up to this point, my process has been successful–a literary agent requested my manuscript, and the writers group seems excited when I read another section of the book.

After hearing His-story, the other writers responded differently than they had when I shared my novel.  They raised questions about the characters in my short story and identified weaknesses in my writing because I had inconsistencies in those characters.  Someone suggested I go back and do character sketches for each player in the story and revise from there.  Little did they know, I spent time last week completing an online writing course and heard the same advice.  A character sketch isn’t a new concept to me, I just preferred to do it my way.  Why not?  I’m meeting my goals.  But I’m not going to improve as a writer unless I’m willing to listen to the wisdom shared by those around me.

I spent a good deal of time this morning creating the protagonist for my next novel.  I used the Character Creation worksheets found on Tricia Goyer’s website, and compiled five sheets of notes about the main character.  I also created a secret Pinterest board for the book.  I will refer to the saved images when writing character and setting descriptions.

My writers group suggested I set the short stories aside since the necessary revisions require a great deal of work.  Instead, they proposed I focus on my next novel, especially because I’m excited about it.  Though they didn’t praise my work this week, I left the meeting feeling encouraged and inspired.  I hope I did the same for them.