darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
[personal profile] darkemeralds
In my quest to level up in my writing, I set out blindly last summer to revise my novel.

My friend Sue lobbed inspiration at me in the form of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and I began to see myself as a Warrior for Art. It was a thrilling time, overcoming Resistance, writing every day for four hours, and going outdoors in the early evenings after a hard session, with the deliciously overtaxed brain of the Real Writer.

Though I was fixing small things in my novel, I sensed I wasn't really making progress. But I was inspired and hopeful enough to give a large sum of money to a professional editor, who, I believed, would guide me to the next level. Alas, the professional editor couldn't, or wouldn't, My hopes--not to mention my pride--went down the drain with my money.

It was a sad time. One of my nieces, always kind and inquiring, asked me one day, "How's the writing coming?" and I said, "Oh, I've given up. I'm not calling myself a writer at all anymore."



Winter came and went. There were nine seasons of Criminal Minds to bingewatch on Netflix. There was obsessive redecorating, and detailed planning of a remodel I can't afford. By January, sick of myself, I undertook a little inner work, and finally my life began to open up. I contacted old friends. Threw a couple of small parties. Met for drinks. Rejoined the world.

One of the oldest and most long-lost of my friends, it turned out to my surprise, is on the board of Oregon Writers' Colony, and she invited me to join the organization.

Joining OWC brought me out of my self-imposed writer-exile. At my first gathering I had to say something to people, so I said, "I'm working on a historical novel," and it started to be true again. I was invited me to fill a vacancy in a longstanding critique group, and I thought, Maybe this is the way to level up my writing.

I was nervous enough before my first my first Critique Group meeting that I took a lot of herbal anxiety-soothing tincture, which made the meeting pretty mellow, but couldn't disguise the fact that it wasn't useful. They were copy-editing each other's work. It took hours to prepare, and I came away with very little of value. My writing was still going nowhere. I was frustrated.

In my post The Critique Group Experience I asked for advice from the internet, and [personal profile] greghatcher responded with brilliant description of his own best writing group experience. This was about a month ago.

My inspiration-lobbing friend Sue, who has never given up on me as a writer, read Greg's comment and said, "You know we have to create a group like that, right?" Then she made me read Shawn Coyne's The Story Grid.

So I wrote a group manifesto, and Sue invited her friend John, and the Super Hardcore Editing Group was born--born to make better writers of us all.

The SHEG met yesterday for the first time. I learned more and got more specific ideas for fixing my novel in those two hours than I've ever gotten from any writing group, class, or seminar, ever. We're putting principles into practice. We're swapping insights. We're demanding real, solid, measurable improvement of each other and ourselves.

It's brain-shatteringly hard work, but it's what I set out to find, and it's awesome.
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