One of the biggest blessings of my writing life is belonging to a small, close-knit group of lunatics who share my passion for writing. We have spent the last three years feeling out how to best share/review each other’s manuscripts, as well as what assuredly does NOT work. We share our triumphs and losses, mourn the passing of untimely snuffed characters, and circulate any information/inspiration that would further all five of us in our efforts to become published authors.
We decided to play Writer’s Roulette.
* A girl in kindergarten keeps her monopoly of boyfriends and best friends, until the new kid, Robert, shows up at school.
* A bride in black is brought to her midnight wedding, where everyone is dressed in red or purple and no one is happy about the occasion.
* A girl runs through the jungle with a makeshift spear, pursuing someone while yet someone else is pursuing her.
* A boy tells, in a series of flashbacks, what brought him up to a point of sudden death.
* A girl in the hospital waits and watches as her nurse prowls the windows, waiting for the imminent danger that is soon to come.
* It is a good thing to write outside your “comfort zone” now and then. Two of our group prefers writing in first person, two of us prefer third person. The fifth prefers impressionistic short story writing which can employ either point of view; but she also prefers more realistic writing, whereas the rest of us aim for the adventurous or fantastical. This means that all of us had to switch perspectives or genres at least twice. We all moaned and said “What the heck am I supposed to do with THIS?” at least twice. But then we pushed on, and we got through it. Moreover, it was all valid storytelling – even the time-warping Gothic wedding pizza party.
* Knowing a diverse group of writers is a great way to strengthen your weak areas. None of us would have progressed much as individual writers, if we’d kept only to the company of those who wrote exactly like ourselves. By putting ourselves out there with a common group who automatically scrutinize (graciously and thoughtfully, of course) what you do, it’s made us sharper at defending our own work, but also taking constructive criticism. It’s also enabled us to think differently in unusual and unexpected ways, especially as pertains to our writing.
* Sometimes you need a deliberate break from your current project, even if it’s only momentary. During our Writer’s Roulette exercise, we each typed about 1700 words – the average daily goal for a NaNoWriMo participant. And it was 1700 words that couldn’t bolster our overall word count. What we each found, however, was that in returning to our own project after our “experiment”, we were suddenly able to break through whatever nagging issue we were facing with relative ease. Inevitably the nagging problem was in our weakest area, an area that had been subtly addressed by playing Musical Laptops for an hour.
The point is, of course, that as a writer you should never insist on always doing things just one way, and alone. We came to the meeting determined to buffer our NaNo word count by thousands; we ended up putting most of our energies into something else entirely. By mutual agreement, we were all thrown into the deep end of the pool, and we found out that we could swim – better, and under stranger conditions than any of us thought.
That’s why we, as writers, need each other. None of us can improve in isolation. EVER. We need to sharpen each other, encourage each other, and sometimes even shove each other (graciously, and in love). That’s when the dream starts to become a reality – and our writing transforms into that miraculous freak of nature we all want. You can have that, too.
Just don’t go it alone. Write, and write what only you can write – but do it in tandem with those who will work alongside you, and never let you off the hook.