Does there come a time when you’ve outgrown the Writers’ Group you’ve attended for well nigh on three years?
I think I may have reached that point. In fact I’ve told them I’m taking a break from their fortnightly meetings for a couple of months. At the moment I can’t see me returning. Is this because I’ve given up writing? Certainly not. Why then?
When I first started at the group I was writing short pieces, about 500 words, and putting them up on a blog. I continued that length in response to the various prompts the group had on their agendas, slowly building them up 1000 words, 1500 words at most. I covered a variety of topics: pieces based on a book or film I’d read or watched, responses to listed proverbs, sayings, headings, even personal pieces relating to my experiences in recent years. But after a talk from a visiting local author I began to experiment with longer pieces of writing. Prior to attending the group I had managed to write a story of about 24,000 words. Now, inspired by the writer and her suggestion of using Scrivener as a writing platform, I attempted to turn this long piece into a fully blown novel. After a number of months I hit 110,000 words, even after editing. Since then, apart from a few shorter pieces, I have written two novellas and am nearing the completion of a third, around 35, 000 to 50,000 words each. I’ve tried taking excerpts from these into the group’s meetings, with a summary of the story up to the point the extract starts from. But it’s proved hard for many of the group to give useful feedback. The more serious writers there do, they appreciate I want comments on dialogue or description or a character’s voice, etc, whatever I ask for before I share the piece. The others, the majority, are only really there for the coffee, biscuits and a chat. They rush off a simple rhyming poem as a contribution and their feedback consists of ‘That’s okay’, ‘Um, yes, I quite like that’, It’s okay’, or nothing at all. If it hasn’t got a beginning, middle and end, they’re lost.
The group has changed over the three years. People have left, people have joined. Sadly the overall quality has dropped. This means I’m getting the useful feedback from the same two or three. If they’re absent, or one or two are, then it’s a largely wasted two hours. Interestingly enough the group’s leader is also taking a break from the meetings for the same reasons as me. When I emailed him he rang me up within ten minutes saying we must me psychic as he was discussing the same thoughts with his wife that very moment.
The traveling. A forty minute journey there, two hours seated at the meeting, then forty minutes back home. That’s a lot of sitting down – not healthy. It’s a nice enough road, not too busy, going through places that bring back many memories for me, and the town where the meetings are held is also somewhere I lived when very young and our parents lived in or near for much of their married lives. But if the meeting is not worthwhile then the journey starts to become tiring, mentally. And I can still visit the town, and drive along the roads, without going to a meeting I don’t enjoy. In bad weather, of course, the reasons for not going only multiply.
So for now I’m happy to continue writing by myself. I’m nearly at the end of my present work and that’ll be up on Amazon once edited. And no doubt I’ll start something new to keep me occupied in the coffee shops.
Adios, Writers’ Group…