Sunday, February 6, 2011


Posted by: Barbara Longley

This post isn't about magic. It's about writing, and I'm interested in hearing how the rest of you handle this issue.

Once I decided to take writing seriously, I enrolled in a class offered through The Loft, a literary center in Minneapolis. The instructors were both veteran romance writers with multiple published titles under their belts and careers spanning decades. They stressed the importance of working with a critique group.

Some of us writer-wannabes taking the class got together and formed a group. As with all new endeavors, there were upheavals, clashes, changes and growing pains, but our learning curve was entirely vertical. We truly became a cohesive circle of dedicated writers improving our craft.

After a year, some of the members drifted away, but a core group emerged. We bonded. The trust and the friendship developed into something very rare and precious. We all began to final in writing contests on a regular basis, and two of our members secured agents. Sharing the triumphs and disappointments along the bumpy road toward publication became a way of life for us. We worked together for five years. I believed we'd work together forever. We often spoke of writing retreats, sharing promotional strategies, evolving as our needs changed.

The only thing constant in life is change.

For various reasons, our group recently disbanded. The breaking up part felt like a divorce; it was that painful. In my more objective moments, I wondered if maybe we'd gone as far as we could together. We met every week. Had we burned out? Perhaps we'd learned all we could from each other, and we needed to fall apart to continue to grow. Does this make any sense? Have any of you gone through similar experiences?

So, now I'm trying to learn how to fly solo. I second guess myself constantly. I'm a toddler again. My legs wobble, and I end up on my butt . . . a lot. I want to learn to trust my own voice, judgment, and story-telling ability. Can I do this? Is it possible?

How do the rest of you handle this? Do you write alone, or do you have CPs? Am I making a mistake? should I seek new partners? Argh, the angst.


  1. I had a similar experience with a group I started up. We had members come and go but three of us stuck together until one of them moved away from the city. I'm still in contact with them but we no longer function as a critique group. Instead of joining another group, I decided to trust my own instincts. To my surprise this worked out fine. The ms was accepted. But I do enjoy working alone. Not everyone does. In the end you have to do what works for you whether that be working with one CP, a group or alone. Best wishes for the next step in your writing journey.

  2. I research and outline alone, but once the writing starts I rely on my CPs to keep me honest.

  3. Hey Barbara,
    I know when we started our crit group just over a year ago there were ten of us. Now we are 7 core members who post to our message board daily and exchange work etc. Now that I have several editors that I work with and have been through the editing process so much, I can usually turn out a pretty clean ms without a full read through. That said, early on, their input absolutely played a huge part in my getting published. And even now, I still bounce ideas off them, post a chapter or two for advice on plot etc. Most of all, though, they are my support system. I think that's what I would miss most. I'm really sorry your group disbanded. Only you can know if you are able (or even want to) do it alone. If you ever need a second set of eyes or a pep talk, feel free to email...

  4. Barbara, hugs!
    Writing is already such a solitary adventure, I think we need our CPs more than we even realize. Not only for the objective perspective on our work, but also so that we know there are other people we can connect with who are having the same experiences and challenges that we are.

    Good luck going it alone, but remember that even if your core group doesn't meet anymore, the online forums of authors can be really supportive!

    JK Coi

  5. Thanks so much, guys. Christine, you are so sweet to offer to read and give pep talks. We can all do that for each other. Writing is solitary, and it's so easy to crawl into that inner space and just live there for awhile. I'm going to try to learn how to be on my own, and if the opportunity arises where I meet writers similarly seeking, then I'll be open to it.
    Meanwhile, I have to push myself to be social. Ha! Introvert be us.
    Umm, JK, what are these online forums of authors you speak of??

  6. A good one is the Submission Care thread on Eharlequin forum called The Write stuff. Many pubbed HQ, Carina and aspiring authors hang out there and support eachother as we wait for submission responses, cover art etc.
    Come visit!

  7. Thanks, Christine. I'll go take a look.

  8. Barbara, are you a member of RWA? Do you have a local chapter? Whatever else anyone can say about RWA (sometimes good, somtimes bad), the local chapters are fabulous starting points for making new connections with other writers, especially those who are close to you. I've been a member of my Toronto chapter for 3 years now and I met my CPs through that group. None of us live more than an hour away from each other, so getting together is doable--although we more often work online

  9. Yep. I'm the treasurer of Midwest Fiction Writers. I've been putting feelers out there. Something will come up if it's supposed to. I have this gut feeling that this a challenge I need to meet. (writing alone, that is) Thanks for all the great suggestions. I do appreciate the supportive feedback from this group. Writers are a good bunch of people.


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