Wait…wait…is this a romance?

I’m fortunate enough to have stumbled across an amazing online writing community, Scribophile, and am even more thrilled that I found a small group of intelligent, hilarious, kind, honest, motivated women writers willing to exchange beta reads. One of the best things, besides the fact that I felt like I had my very own cheerleading squad, was just how motivational they are. We are diverse in just about every way possible yet we share the same dream: to be published authors. 

We want the early mornings or late nights, the neglected piles of laundry, the bowls of cereal the kids had to have for dinner, the excuses to friends (I swear I really was home writing. Yes, ALL of November), the pots of coffee we shouldn’t have had for dinner and every other side affect of this obsession to be worth it. To “count”. Despite how hard we might be on ourselves, though, we are ever-helpful and encouraging to each other. 

The hardest part about an internet community–and which I suspect many of my fellow introverts would mark in the pro column–is the lack of physical interraction. As awkard as live writing groups are, if I overstep the bounds with a comment, I can usually tell it bothers the other person and fumble all over myself trying to make them feel better. It’s easier, I think, for feelings to get hurt and people to fade away in virtual groups. I thought originally that people would be more callous and bold, but I’ve found the opposite is true: we are more cautious with our words and find succinct ways to get our point across without verbally ripping up the paper. 

Oh, there are passionate discussions, and it’s hard when you can’t catch a quiet moment with that person before or after the meeting at a coffee shop and say, “hey, I think I came across a little too strong last time. I didn’t mean your character was one-dimensional, I just meant that I’d like to see you describe the hero in as much detail as you do the villain, becaues you’ve captured my interest with the villain”.

I’d like to think that both sides keep in mind that the other is doing their best to give and receive feedback and to improve in both regards.

When it was my turn for a critique, I wrote down every scrap of comments because I value their opinions and admire them as writers. The suggestions they had were great, but I was sitting down to write my revision and…nothing. It felt stilted. What about the character development I’d outlined? The plot holes they helped me fill in? The main character and her love interest didn’t kiss enough…cue sexy loving scenes.

Wait. What? Full stop. I love reading what’s dubbed as “chick lit” (I’m looking at you, Jennifer Weiner, Katie Fforde, Meg Cabot). I l write darker stuff, though. The story in question, about a woman who returns to her hometown licking her wounds has romantic elements, yes, but if I had to categorize it, I’d call it woman’s fiction. When I confessed this to the group, weeks later, after we’d already broken apart a bit to work on rewrites, I felt nervous. What if they were mad they wasted their time? What if I should be writing a romance book? The response i got was so great – it’s my story, write what I want to, they’re happy to read the revised version – and I felt even more emboldened as a writer. Plus, they still found my plot holes and helped me develop my character and taught me countless other lessons.

I’d set out writing this post to talk about having a plan in mind, but being okay with taking a different path if you choose. In writing it, though, I think I really just want to acknowledge the group I’ve found- you ladies are AMAZING. These are the type of people I want in my life, be it in person or via the internet, because they’re not afraid to be honest but they know how to deliver news gently. They’re quick with praise and Friday afternoon photos. I wish everyone could have such an awesome critique group, because the sense of community really does keep me sane in the writer’s block moments.