I love that word. It’s fun to say, and saying it means having fun. For those of you that don’t know, there are LIVE Shenanigans on Thursday nights. Alexandra Christian, Crymsyn Hart, and I have a standing date on Thursday evenings at 7pm at the Starbucks in Rock Hill, SC. It’s a writer’s group of sorts, in that we’re writers and we get together.
I say that because the topic of today’s Shenanigans Post is just that: Writer’s Groups.
Let me preface this by saying the following: THIS IS MY OPINION. THIS IS ONLY MY OPINION. This is my personal take on this topic based on my experiences and the experiences of my friends. I am not belittling anyone or attempting to cause trouble. I am stating an opinion.
Now, shall we begin?
When it comes to writing groups, I have to say I’m not a fan. I mean yeah, I love the idea of getting together with my writing friends and discussing the craft and our books over a cup of coffee, but when we get together, we’re doing so in the spirit of…well…shenanigans. We’re there to have fun, to vent our frustrations, and to get things done. But we’re not a traditional writing group, nor are we a critique group.
Granted, if I email the ladies and ask them for an opinion on something, I’m going to get it. But that’s not what this is about.
There’s another group of writers that meets in Starbucks on Thursdays from time to time. There are about eight of them, and they’re very serious about it. They come in with their manuscripts and their sharpies and determinedly comb over each other’s work. I applaud them for their dedication to their group and their cause, even if I don’t agree with it. That sort of writing group, in my experience, often causes more harm than good. I’ve seen good authors have their confidence ripped to shreds, often by people who have no business picking up a pen. I’ve witnessed meltdowns and accusations of plagiarism. I’ve seen friendships destroyed.
I guess at this point what I’m saying is that writing groups – people who get together to write and share experiences – are fine, but critique groups are a bad idea. And let me tell you why.
1. Jealousy: Not every person in a critique group is at the same level when it comes to talent and experience. Often I hear horror stories about how wonderful authors are beaten down time and again, their work ripped to shreds and completely bastardized by their fellow critiquers, and it always boils down to jealousy. The ones that are violently mean are usually the ones that know their limitations but refuse to admit them. I hate seeing anyone get hurt, especially by those they consider friends in the industry. Jealousy breeds contempt, and people can be cruel and spiteful.
2. Plagiarism: Let’s face it, not every person on the planet is on the up and up. More often than not, critique group horror stories involve some fool stealing someone else’s work. I’ve seen it more times than I care to. But then again, if celebrities (ahem, Shia Laboeuf) aren’t capable of keeping their fingers out of other people’s intellectual pots, who says us normal schlubs have to do it? PLAGIARISM IS WRONG, PEOPLE! It’s every author’s worst nightmare, to wake up and find that someone has stolen our work and potentially profited from it in some way. I only share my unpublished work with my nearest and dearest – as in people I know and trust not to run off with it. I’m leery of handing whole chapters of my work over to relative strangers because I don’t know what’s going to happen.
Now that I’ve pissed off everyone in the room, let me end by saying that yes, every author needs a strong group behind him or her. while having strangers read your work can provide interesting insight, the writing process itself should be supported by those who will support you, not tear you down. Speaking from experience, it’s nice to have people there to bounce ideas off of, who can talk me down from the Delete-Key ledge, and who remind me that no, writing isn’t easy, but I don’t want to be doing anything else.
Just my thoughts. And I can say from experience, I wouldn’t trade my ladies for the world.