I have decided that I need to find a writing group that is interested in my kind of writing. The two main review groups I have are a very close group of friends and family and the somewhat random group that I have encountered through the Meetup website. While the first group likes the style I write in and is infinitely supportive, none of them are fiction writers who are seriously pursuing the improvement of the craft of writing fiction. While they are all avid readers, and that is a good thing, they don’t necessarily read and critique from the point of view of craftsmen.
On the other hand, the Meetup is a very mixed bag with some excellent writers mixed in with some neophytes. I have found all their perspectives to be helpful in different respects. The main problem I have with that group is that I don’t seem to be writing the kind of fantasy that they are interested in reading. When someone begins their critique with “I don’t like songs or poetry in my stories so I suggested you cut that out,” or “I don’t really get into that mythic, epic stuff...” it becomes difficult to decide how to take their critiques. Certainly, they make some very good points, but I feel like there as many critiques which are trying to change the way I write, as there are trying to take the way I write and make it better. If my only goal was to write things and get them published according to the taste of the moment, I would be writing different stuff entirely. But most of the reason that I am writing is to write the stories that appear in my head in the more epic, mythic, old-fashioned, poetic way that they appear there.
I am not bitter about this or trying to say that I have no intention of responding to the world’s response to my work. It’s simply that if you want a good critique for – say – your Italian cookbook, you have to ask other cooks as well as other lovers of Italian food. Comments from people who hate tomatoes and basil will not serve you very well, just as only asking those who frequent Italian restaurants, but don’t cook, won’t give you a good idea of the quality of your recipes.
I want to find other writers who are also, potentially, within the audience I believe I am aiming for in what I write. People who like what I write, and have the experience and skill to make suggestions to improve my writing. Additionally, I’d like to really be able to be invested in what they write and so do the same thing for them. Some of the work I have been critiquing is so far out of my interests or desire to read, that I really don’t feel like I can offer all that much to its authors – just as they don’t have all that much to offer to me.
I don’t know how to get this writing group, but, obviously, the starting place is to want it. I think the first step is to really define what I am looking for, so that prospective members will be drawn to the important elements. Like a crowd in an art gallery – I need to find the room that fits my work best so that I can look among those lingering in that room for companions.