It’s a rare thing. Once a person decides to begin a story and starts writing, they may be sitting in a café, in a library or at home with only the sound of a neighbour’s dog to break the silence. It’s a special moment when the fingers begin to type and something, some world, some people, take shape before a person’s eyes.
Eventually, if the writer has persisted and has a page or ten or a hundred of their story, a single question may infiltrate and slow down the frantic typing.
Is it any good?
This is a relevant question, an important one and for a writer, it will often require outside help to answer it. Some writers may already sense the answer to the question and either keep on, assured of its awesomeness or they may pause and attend a course or two on a particular topic or theme. Others may attend an event at a local writers’ group where they’ll brush up against other writers or others may have friends who also write and hint that they’re also, wait for it, dabbling.
Writing is only part, some would say a small part, about actually writing. The craft of writing, of storytelling, requires more than just a first draft, it requires nurturing through many drafts and needs fresh eyes to point out its flaws, its strengths and its impact on a reader.
One could say that to raise a book, like a child, takes a village.
Enter the writers’ group. A community of writers can help answer many questions for an emerging, mid-career or experienced writer.
Is it any good?
This isn’t a question with a simple yes/no answer. It’s a question that holds many other questions: Am I any good at this storytelling business? Is the story working? Does it say anything? How does it affect the reader? Is it doing what I want it to do? These questions relate to a writer’s ability to manipulate the individual elements of a story and put the pieces together in a way that will impact a reader. It’s about craft and skill, not just about stylistic writing. It’s about leading a reader through a particular journey to a very specific outcome that the writer has preordained.
A writers’ group can provide the writer with a set of fresh, unsuspecting readers and their response and feedback will help to answer these questions. Good feedback will state what is and isn’t working. Great feedback will stimulate possibilities and reveal more questions. Feedback only works when it’s honest and it becomes great when it’s done on behalf of the story, in an attempt to find its truest voice.