Some writers pooh-pooh the idea of writers’ groups. Perhaps they fear exposing themselves. Let’s face it: it takes guts to put your work out there in the limelight that shows all the zits and scars. Or, perhaps they fear someone will steal their ideas or their marvelous prose. That does happen, but only very rarely—so rarely that when it does, it becomes a major media event (Remember the brouhaha when Janet Daily stole whole paragraphs from Nora Roberts? Of when Rand Paul did some heavy-handed borrowing from Wikipedia?). For most of us, though, a good writing group is a godsend.
My particular group is Lone Mountain Writers, founded in the early 90s by Marilee Swirczek at Western Nevada College. Today the group is only loosely associated with the college. Quite frankly, LMW is wonderful. Every writer should have such a knowledgeable, supportive group! Ours is very eclectic in terms of both the members and the things they write. We range in age from twenties to seventies. I especially appreciate the fact that LMW has several men in it. If one writes romance, getting the alternative point of view is a must. Most of us write fiction—the gamut, from inspirational to soft porn (think 50 shades of anything). Occasionally someone hands us an essay or submits a poem to the crucible of critique.
Twice a month for two hours we discuss four submissions of approximately 15 pages each (these have been emailed the previous week). Detailed line editing is done on the manuscript and handled individually. During the meeting we try to confine ourselves to global comments that may be helpful not only to the individual writer, but address writer issues on a broader level.
There are few “rules”: Be positive and helpful; explain what did and did not work for you as a reader. Occasionally offer suggestions, but trust the writer to fix the problem—if he or she even agrees there is a problem.
Trust and respect. For the writer and his or her work. I do not ordinarily choose to read horror stories (zombies, etc.) or weird graphic sex, but I’ll read anything members of the group offer because I know that what I bring to them may not be their cup of tea either. But they read it. And, oh, my! are they ever helpful!
I would not willingly give up my association with Lone Mountain Writers.