Thursday, May 28, 2009

Notes on Writing

I've been thinking a lot about my writing goals for this summer, so it seemed only natural to, well, write about them!

Now that graduation is over, and I have some breathing space before I start working on my MFA, it seems like a good time to tackles those WIPs.

As some of you know, I've become enamored of Twitter recently. I'm still learning how to use it most effectively, but one of the things I'm enjoying most is finding and connecting with other writers. There seem to be quite a few writers in the Twitterverse, specifically romance writers interestingly enough. Long ago I had briefly considered attempting to write romance, but despite the fact that the romance genre is the single highest selling genre of fiction, there seems to be a stigma attached to romance as trashy and not legitimate fiction.

So as a writer, you have to ask yourself, which is more important: being published and making money, or literary integrity?

I've decided to do some "research" and have started collecting a variety of romance novels by different writers to see what's going on in the genre. I'm trying to read the work of some of the writers I've found on Twitter, I think it's a professional courtesy as well as practical research. Then maybe I'll give the genre a shot and see if I have anything to contribute. I've never been an eager proponent of "literary integrity." The concept of a "canon" irks me, actually and seems pretty arrogant and presumptuous. Yes, some literature is better than others, but literature is a very fluid animal changing with the times. Personally, I think the accepted canon should be more fluid as well. But that's another blog entirely.

In the meantime, I've got a couple of WIPs I am continuing to work on over the summer. I want to set realistic goals, but having never written anything novel-length before, I'm really treading on new ground so I think I'll just take it as it comes. I've found that, at least for this first time through, my tendency is to get the bones of the story on the page first and then once I get to the end I'll loop back around and flesh it out. When I go back over it and read it now it feels so clumsy in its brevity, but I believe in the story.

One of the things that I think is most helpful to me, as a writer, is to connect in meaningful professional ways with other writers. Writing can be a lonely and doubt-ridden proposition, so talking to other writers and learning that they have the same anxieties and doubts is a liberating experience. It's nice to know that other writers don't just sit down and write a polished final draft the first time through; that they also struggle with character development, story arc, subplots, continuity, etc. I'm finding again that Twitter is an interesting place to learn these things about other writers.

However, I think it's still important to connect in person with other writers as well, so I worked this week toward establishing a local writer's group. I'm happy to say that I managed to pull together a small group of local writers and I'm very excited to start working together, sharing ideas and concerns.

For all of you writer-types, have you been or are you currently involved in a writer's group? If so, what did you find most useful or beneficial about the group? What were the most important things you took away from it as a writer?


Anonymous said...

Regardless of genre, style, whatever, I think writing integrity comes from writing what you were born to write -- writing the stories that only YOU can write.

I think of Jodi Picoult. She's a solid writer on the local level, but she only ever writes other people's stories, and sure this has made her a very good living, but wouldn't it be incredible to see what she would/could do if she dug deeply into her own heart?

Anonymous said...

I have not had the pleasure of being part of a writer's group, yet. I've recently discovered one of the libraries in a neighboring town hosts a writer's group once a week. I'm excited to check that out.

What I can comment on is writing a novel and connecting with other writers via Internet. I have not checked out Twitter (I know...I'm so behind the times) but plan to. I post my work on another it has been a wonderful experience for me thus far.

I am currently working on my second novel-length piece. Short stories are just not for me. I have an issue with word count so I enjoy a novel. Drafting out the work for the first time is very time consuming and can be frustrating at times but so rewarding in the end. I am a writer of romance. All types of romance. And you are 100% correct by reading other writers of this genre. You will find there are so many levels to romance. Finding the one that best suits you is the key.

Good luck with your writer's group.


Angie Ledbetter said...

Don't care about the money at all, but I do want my book to have integrity.

As for the writing group, I was part of a huge one at a local B&N, but it was too big and had too many different types of writers. Five or so years ago, started my own writing/crit group. Now we can't do without each other, as friends/family and extra eyes. I hope you find similar experiences!

Terri Tiffany said...

Congrats on getting a writers group together! I started one a year ago and love meeting with all of them. We keep if focused mostly on goals and encouragement.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I love Twitter. I currently do not belong to a writers group, although I have in the past. I am crazy about Twitter, I have made some friends with both published and non-published authors there. Such fun!

Cheryl said...

Writing groups are a great, great way to stay motivated. Don't want to be the only person there with nothing new to read.

It's great you're getting set to write a novel. I keep thinking I have to get back to my novel, I have to get back to my novel - finish that painting, clean my apartment, find work - gahhh! But I just joined a writing group that gets together and instead of critiquing, actually writes - at least for an hour. Will see how it goes..

As for romance books not being legitimate fiction. bah! What do critics know? What about Pride and Prejudice? Greatest romance novel of all time?

CDP said...

I think that what any writer wants is to have their work read and appreciated, whether or not it makes money, so I don't think that writing a romance novel is contrary to integrity at all. And any genre can produce great literature...think of true crime, for example. I haven't read much true crime, but I can definitely say that I can only think of a few books in any genre that are as good as Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. That's a straight true crime story, and it's also one of the best books ever written by an American writer.

Louisa Edwards said...

Hey! I'm on Twitter ( but if you really want good romance recs, follow @jane_l, @SmartBitches, and @SaraFrantz--they're all reviewers with good taste.

Your goals sound very smart and doable. Good luck!

Fran said...

Just write what you love. Forget what's happening everywhere else.

Rebecca said...

I have had some experience with writing groups, the best is the comments from a professional who is in the groups... but not so much from the unpublished, not saying they don't give good suggestions, but more they follow what the published person suggests.

Some will give their honest comments, but many will say "same as what (insert name) said"

Anonymous said...

Very thought-provoking post! I don't think genre should determine level of integrity at all. If you're happy and fulfilled by your work, essentially that's what matters.

Also, I'm a huge fan of writer's groups. As a beginning freelancer, connecting with others that can provide me with advice, direction and support has been invaluable.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm commenting a bit late on this thread, but here is my 2 cents. I think it depends on the group. It's almost like playing tennis--it's not as much fun if you have a partner who is vastly superior in skills or vice versa.

Mystery Writing is Murder