Last night, I grabbed my note book and pen, loaded the first chapter of my second book onto my phone and braced myself for my first writers critique group. After getting lost and almost soaked in the familiar British August weather, I found a room of friendly women, some orange squash and a plate of home-made bread pudding. I soon felt very at home.
The chair (she didn’t call herself that, it was very informal, but for wont of any other name, let’s call her that) started with an explanation of why the group had been set up: ‘Writers need other writers.’ I think this is one of the best ways someone has expressed what I felt when I first met a group of writers, at UK Meet 2012.
We introduced ourselves, and it was quickly apparent our experience and aspirations were very varied. They ranged from someone who hadn’t written anything, but wanted to tell her life story in a novel; a woman who had been inspired by her father’s speech in rhyming couplets at her wedding to write her own poem as a birthday present to her father; a published author; another woman who’d given up her job to write a novel in six months, which had been accepted into the RNA’s new writers scheme for critique from a published author; a woman who has a book of inspirational quotes just published; one person had been to a series of writers crit groups.
The theme for everyone was that the writing, whether it was ever published or not, no matter how they got the words on the page, was something just for them, alongside busy lives of children, grandchildren, jobs, husbands etc.
The chair had asked us to read a short extract of something we’d written. It wasn’t compulsory, and we all agreed that as soon as things became compulsory, it wasn’t as much fun.
The extracts were very different from each other, including some readings of historical stories set in the 1800s; a piece of poetry including some great imagery from childhood memories; the published author read a scene from a short story set in a hospital in the 1940s; I explained what GLBTQ meant when talking about the UK Meet; and we ended with some inspirational quotes.
After reading my extract, during which there had been some laughter (which was good as it’s meant to be humorous) the chair said I had a very strong voice. I was the only person reading something in the first person singular; everything else had been in third person. I’m not sure what that’s about, but I just seem to naturally write in the first person. Maybe it’s because some of my favourite books are written that way, and I imagine the main character is telling me their story over a pint in the pub. For me that’s one of the favourite ways of storytelling.
Do you have any experience of writers crit groups, I’d love to hear from you? Or do you prefer to use trusted beta readers?
Until next time