I’m trying a little something new today. I’ve decided that I need to get out of my own head once in awhile when it comes to my creative writing. Since I’m not in school anymore, and don’t have a writing group, I do a lot of over-analyzing and self-doubting (I’d do those things with a class or a writing group, too, but it gets a bit claustrophobic in my own head). So I’m creating this feature, Writing Wednesdays, to talk a little about my writing, and the challenges and problems and techniques that go along with it. Let me know what you think, dear readers. I promise that if it gets too whiny or angsty I will stop doing it. More than anything, I guess what I’m trying to do is create a dialogue with other writers, because I haven’t had a “community” in a long time, and sometimes it feels like I’m writing into a vacuum, which is something I need to change.
So for my first topic, lets address exactly that: community. I’ve been wondering lately how anyone cultivates a group of readers, specifically beta readers and people to get real feedback from. Since getting out of school, I’ve been itching for someone to critique with regularly. I’ve tried doing things like NaNoWriMo, I’ve tried connecting with friends who write, but nothing seems to fit or stick. Right now, when I need eyes on my work, I have a few friends I can rely on to tell me, bare bones, whether it reads well or not. That’s great, but I want depth. I want to find people who can help me dismantle a story, and then help me rebuild it. I want people to discuss craft with, and I want to put my otherwise useless editing degree to work and actually edit others’ work.
To that end, I think it’s really time for me to find a face-to-face writing group. But I’m not so good with strangers. Interactions on the internet terrifies me. A face-to-face group might make me bust out in a panic attack.
It’s a definite goal, though, because to get better I can’t write solely for myself. It took me years to get over the hurdle to actually submit something, and once I did it I actually managed to get some things published. So maybe if I force myself to get over this hurdle, I can manage to make my work better. Which is ultimately all that matters to me.
So, questions for writers out there. What do you look for in a first reader of your work? Do just you have readers look at grammar and formatting, or do you have readers who go deeper than that? At what stage are you ready to share your projects? Are there any online communities out there I should know about? (assume I know nothing, because it’s probably true.) How do you find/connect with people? That has always been a problem for me, and I’m sure it always will be to some degree, but I’m ready to face it down.