The Cult

cult

I just realised it’s been a full year since I joined my writers group, time for me to acknowledge this wonderful group of people and all they have done for me!

While the group may be small (less than ten members), we make up for it in passion. Ellenbrook Writers Group, also known as The Cult, plays host to both a queen and a princess, someone to rule the land and someone to sweeten the time spent there. We even have our very own Electro-Jesus to fix all IT related emergencies, and as writers, there are a lot of those! We’re a wacky bunch, and sometimes the conversations border on illegal, but this writing family has taught me more about the art of words than I even knew there was to learn.

Now, I’m going to be brutally honest. When I searched for a writers group to get involved with, I was expecting to find pockets of wannabe writers who weren’t entirely sure how to punctuate a sentence. I guess I made the ridiculous assumption that writers of a higher calibre would have no use for a critique group. I’m sorry fellow Cultists, it’s true. But now I want the world to know I was wrong.

The great thing about writers, is they like to help each other. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been writing for two months or twenty years, there is always something to be learnt from a fresh pair of eyes on your work. Allowing someone to read your manuscript and give a fresh opinion is invaluable, if that person happens to be a writer, they will notice things no one else can see. The placement of a comma, the repetition of a word, the inconsistent behaviour of a character and how many dots your ellipses have. Those critiques will blow your mind, making you see both the silly mistakes and the complex ones.

Some of those mistakes you will make time and again, because you’re so used to making them, you think they’re right. These are the things that need to be trained out of you. Let’s face it, an average, read-for-pleasure person, isn’t going to invest the time it takes to snap you out of those habits. But a bunch of writers sitting in a room together will pick those flaws apart, meeting after meeting, until eventually the mistakes don’t need to be edited out, you stop making them altogether! I truly believe I’m ten times the writer I was before I met these people, and I still have so far to go. This blog is just a short appreciation post for the group who inspire and challenge me, their lessons working through the critiques and submissions they share, and the discussions we have around that table.

Here’s to the Cultists, not amateurs but successfully-published, editing-extraordinaire writers. Thank you to the Queen, for bringing this group together, her exceptional punctuation skills and zazz for rational thinking. The princess for being pretty much the cutest person you’ll ever meet, and delving deep into the psychology of every story, telling you things about yourself you didn’t even know. Electro-Jesus for the electro-jesusing, and the creepy but useful knowledge of all things violent. Bec who can spot repetitions from a mile away, and is always searching for ways it could sound better, she pushes you to your limit but never makes you feel like a fool. The Duchess of Cats, who sees the good in everything and is packed full of encouragement. And the lovely Lisa, who always pushes for better descriptions, teaching us how to show rather than tell our readers.

All of you do an amazing job, both teaching and learning, and just being a great bunch of friends! To our newest members, I look forward to sharing the stage with you!

Writing Is A Journey. A Long One.

It’s my two year blogaversary and I’ve come one hell of a long way! I can see it in my books and I can see it in my blogs. So here’s to ever learning …

challenge-520x245If you look anywhere for tips on writing, ‘Learning to Accept Criticism’ is always listed in the top ten. It’s important for writers to understand the role of rejection, because there’s no way to avoid it. If you send your work to publishers, it’s going to be knocked back, if you let the public read it, there will be bad reviews. It is the nature of art, there is no perfect way to do it.

But handling the criticism doesn’t come naturally to writers, we’re often sensitive, thoughtful creatures who need to be handled with care. Everyone is different but I believe new writers in general are not ready to hear it. I wasn’t either. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In order to make it through the thousands of words it takes to finish your manuscript, you need to believe you were born with a natural talent.

You’ve heard about writers being rejected countless times, you know how rare it is for someone to write a best seller first time round, but somewhere deep down, you think you could be one of them. That’s what gets you through. And when people are brave enough to tell you the truth about your book, you justify it in your own mind. They’re not my target audience, they don’t usually read, they aren’t familiar with the genre. Anything to convince yourself their feedback isn’t relevant, or they just didn’t see what you were trying to do.

It’s something we all have to go through. The tip isn’t, ‘Accept Criticism’, it’s ‘LEARN to Accept Criticism’. It takes time, and how ever long that may, be will vary from writer to writer. For a whole bunch of different reasons.

For me, I was afraid the criticism would stop me in my tracks. I didn’t want to hear it because I know I can take things to heart and I was worried the harsh truth would knock me right off my perch. I wrote four books and self published them, I set them free into the world. But the truth was I wasn’t ready to hear the bad news. Which is perfectly okay, the only way to get there is to experience it.

I took that terrifying first step, I revealed myself and all my flaws to the public.

And that’s the point in every writer’s life when they realise they’re not naturally blessed with the skills. They’re blessed with the inspiration and determination—the skills have to be learnt.

That realisation can take years. Only once you have poured your heart and soul into a story and moved on to write something new, can you really look back and see it for what it is. Time and distance shows you that your work is far from perfect. You did your very best, but you’ve learnt enough to understand what’s wrong with it.

And eventually, hearing someone point out your weaknesses is no longer so hard to hear. You know exactly what they’re talking about—you can see it yourself. You look at the standard of your work now, and see how far you’ve come. It’s still not perfect, but if someone points out the flaws, you think,  I’ve come so far in the past year, give it one more year and I’ll be even better at this.

It’s a journey. A long one.

I’ve been writing seriously for eight years now, and I can finally say I’m ready. I know my writing isn’t perfect, I mean really know, not just saying the words for the sake of it. The difference now, is that hearing the truth won’t stop me. I’ve realised I’m not defined by my work, but by my ability to learnt from it. I’m not afraid of publishers knocking me back, I won’t bother reading between the lines when someone says my work is good, completely lacking conviction. I can see it for what it is, and it doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It means I’ve graduated. I’m ready to call myself a real writer.