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You Don’t Know Everything: Manuscript Strength in Numbers

If you’re a writer, and you’re not a part of a writer’s workshop group, I want you to go ahead and kick yourself in the gut. And if you’re capable of this feat, maybe you should consider a new line of work. Those of you who are regular followers of my mostly mundane author news know that I am the de facto leader of a writer’s group (via Meetup) here in town (on Twitter at @WeirdATXWriters), and I have to say, their feedback is priceless. Typically, I bring my first drafts of short stories, chapters, and poems to my workshop meetups, and my first drafts are usually pretty clean. But if it weren’t for my writer’s group, I wouldn’t have known the following about my next novel (which now has a title, btw… PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN IN INK: A TATTOO STORYBOOK).

  • One of my stories takes place on Thanksgiving, and there’s a reference to football playing on the television. If not for my writer’s group, I wouldn’t have known that the teams that play on Turkey Day are Detroit and Dallas, every year. And I LOVE football. (Yes, it was a Texan who corrected me.)
  • The correct height and weight of a 4-year-old boy. Also, the age at which boys are fully potty-trained. Sure, I can guess, but my guesses proved inaccurate.
  • That not everyone remembers 1984 (the book, not the year – I was two) with the same level of recall as me, and the term “proles” is lost on most.

Bottom line? I’m a pretty smart cookie, but I don’t know everything. No one’s life experiences can make them an expert on everything, and it’s only by having a few fresh sets of eyes on a manuscript that you can resolve little misgivings in the prose that hurt your credibility with the reader.

If you’re not part of a group, there is no excuse for that. There’s Meetup, where you can probably find about 5 writers groups in your area. If there isn’t one, you can start one, and it’ll cost you about $100 a year. I joined one when I moved to Austin, and ended up running the same group when the organizer moved out of town, and we typically have about 5 or 6 people in a workshop meetup. That’s 5 different people with different life experiences (parent, engineer, sports fan, etc.) reading my manuscripts and pointing out these little issues that never would have crossed my mind. Is that worth the $100 a year I’m spending on meetup dues (that I could be getting from sponsors or my group members if I were that concerned about the cash)? You bet your sweet ass it is.

Published inMention Mondaywriting

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