In the spirit of positive thinking, I wish to list a few more things that worked for me this year. Getting right to it, the next Best Thing That I Did For Myself This Year is:
1. Join a Critique Group
I belong to an online critique group and, speckled throughout the year, a local writing class. Both have been indispensable in different ways. My writing class group has met on and off for three years now. It's run by YA/MG author Valerie Hobbs. It's more than a critique group; it's a class, with the first hour focusing on a particular writing technique and the last hour on writer's works. As good as an online critique group is, there really is nothing more valuable than having an experienced, talented author teach you the finer points of writing. On top of this, Val is exceptional at dishing out the appropriate amount of encouragement and criticism. As a somewhat naive, blindly enthusiastic writer like myself, this level of tempering has kept me motivated and learning for quite some time.
Problem: Right around this time last year, I felt ready for more. The writing class was working but each writer is only critiqued a few times in one session. I needed more. I had begun investigating some groups on the SCBWI site and then, around March, one of my blogging friends told me about an opening in her group and soon after, I became one of The Farflung Writers.
Solution: The group is run on a Google site and as far as I can tell (I'm not the administrator, Kelly is!) the set-up seems moderately easy and the page easy to navigate. There are eight of us; two writers submit 5000 words (about 17-19 pages) each week. At first that seemed excessive, considering my writing class critiqued only 10 pages. I started out having the group critique a new WIP, but with the large chunk to critique and write for the next session, it felt too overwhelming. I had always preached that critiquing a first draft when the first draft is not yet done is a sure way to writer's block and yes, that' exactly what happened.
So I began submitting the rewrite of Greenwood Girls and the feedback couldn't have been better. Each member brings a different flavor of critiquing and there are some critiques that I really just couldn't do without. They are so vital to completing this novel.
Results: This group has brought my writing to new levels. I try hard to show not tell, force myself to look at the character's motivations in each scene and continue to realize that the book is not quite ready...yet. The absolutely best comment I got recently had confirmed a nagging suspicion about an element in the story that I couldn't quite pin down. She nailed it and wasn't afraid to say so. It was like she gift-wrapped her comments and placed them under the tree. They were that welcomed.
I encourage you to take your writing farther by engaging in a critique group...but not until you have your first draft completed. I truly believe that this should be done without any critical eyes.
I love the name of our critique group. It fits us perfectly. We are far flung, residing in the east, west, mid west...everywhere. There is even a wine label called Far Flung and an album...Does your group have a cool critique name?