Why My Novel is Dedicated to My Critique Group | With Caryn Rose
Today’s guest post comes from Author Caryn Rose, author of B-Sides & Broken Hearts. Caryn tells us how her writing group won her over!
For years, I went to writing groups, and thought that something was wrong with me: it seemed like all anyone wanted to do was talk about why they weren’t writing, and get permission from the group to not write. I had already wasted enough time making excuses for not writing, and now that I was writing, this was not helpful. So I swore off writing groups.
But my best friend was one of those people who, through her line of work, knew many smart and interesting people, and she told me about a friend of hers who had a writing group. I told her the story. She’s one of those people who doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She insisted that this particular friend wasn’t lame. I agreed to go to a meeting just to make her shut the hell up and prove her wrong.
And then I met the women of the Seattle Writer’s Bloc and I had to eat copious amounts of crow.
Don’t get me wrong, from time to time we would get women who wanted to come to the group to talk about why they weren’t writing. But when you have a group of mostly bad-asses, people like that stop coming. There were no excuses with this group. When I listed about a dozen reasons I couldn’t write a synopsis, I was greeted by a table full of steely-eyed “you have got to be EFFING kidding us with this crap, right” stares back at me.
I came to the group next week with the synopsis written in three different lengths.
When my manuscript was finished – all 804 pages of it – everyone demanded their time with the red pencil. I dreaded this part, as much as I loved them – I didn’t want to lose my voice, I was sure that no one else could possibly understand my precious concept as I did, [insert equally idiotic reason here]. Instead, as the manuscript went from hand to hand, what I got were half a dozen sets of thoughtful, insightful, intelligent comments, notes and edits. I also got called on my bullshit in multiple places, and darlings were killed, nay, SLAUGHTERED. No one had any hesitancy in taking a red pencil and slashing entire pages or, in one case, just writing “NO” in letters the height of the entire page.
It hurt. It smarted. It made me pout. But I did all of this in private, and then I took a deep breath and carted their edits off to the desert and rewrote the damn thing. I didn’t agree with everything, but they made me think, every single time, and they made it a better book.
The novel is out now. It’s called B-sides and Broken Hearts, and it’s dedicated to the women of the Seattle Writer’s Bloc because I wouldn’t have gotten that manuscript out of my house without them. If I find a group half as good ever again, I’ll be lucky.
Caryn Rose is a Brooklyn-based writer who documents rock-and-roll,
baseball and urban life.
She lives in Greenpoint with her boyfriend and her cat, Jackie Wilson.
B-sides and Broken Hearts is her first novel.
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