I’m basking in the glow of the Mid-Michigan Chapter of Romance Writers of America’s (MMRWA) annual Retreat from Harsh Reality. Our speaker this year was Katharine Ashe, author of historical romance novels. She was amazing! Once again, I realized the need for writers to spend time—quality time—with other writers. Here are only five reasons why:
Shared Excitement Over Writing Craft (or “The Writing-Geek Files”)
I’ve been scratching my head over the term “high concept” since I first heard it a couple of years ago. Katharine’s presentation “What is High Concept (and How Do I Write It)” was the best explanation of high concept I have heard. Who but writers would get enthusiastic about this and spend time trying to create a snappy log line that will get readers excited about a book? That’s the value of a gathering of writers – shared excitement over really geeky ideas.
No One Else Hears Voices
The most precious affirmation is that you are not alone or crazy when you hear voices. When you tell another writer that your character just threw you a curve ball, that writer will not back off suddenly remembering an urgent appointment. Admit it, even your BFF since kindergarten has done this. A writer, on the other hand, will nod with a sympathetic gleam in her eye. Then she’ll relate how her character refused to talk to her anymore unless she, the author, did the character’s bidding. (Caveat: if this kind of discussion makes you uneasy, you might want to remember your urgent appointment right now.)
You Will Not Get Arrested
Once when I met with my critique partners at Panera Bread, we were discussing Buried Secrets. I said, “I just don’t know if I can kill off a nun!” The couple at the table across from us did a double take and moved. If they had been writers, they would have understood completely and joined in the conversation. Also, writers often worry they may end up on a watch list if authorities happen upon their research history, with entries like “poisons that don’t leave a trace” or “what caliber gun works best in _____ situation” or “where to hide a body”.
Late Night Plotting Sessions
After a long day and a couple of glasses of wine, plotting sessions really do become brainstorming because everyone is relaxed and winding down. Creativity sparks because we’ve been focused on taking notes all day, and now it’s time to let our minds simply play. It was during one of these pjs-and-sweats-wearing sessions that the awareness came to light that my one book WIP may actually be two books.
Celebrate and Commiserate
Nowhere else will you garner sympathy for disappointments and, yes, failures, as you will in a writers’ group. We’ve all been there. We know the pain of rejection, of caustic comments from contest judges, or the agony of lack of support from family and friends. Bringing your sorrow or disappointment to MMRWA will result in being wrapped in a warm blanket of love and support. These women know how to care for one another.
At this retreat, we have a “Toot Your Own Horn” session that everyone is required to participate in regardless of their experience. We celebrate EVERYTHING from publication of a book to entering a contest (notice I didn’t say winning or even placing) to writing 250 words in a manuscript. Writers understand the courage it takes to enter a contest or to face a blank page. Writers celebrate the success of publication or landing an agent or getting a letter that says an editor maybe, possibly, might want to look at your completed manuscript. It’s joy time.
Every profession offers conferences, workshops, seminars, or webinars for professional development of its members. Staying current, learning your craft, and networking are part of working toward success. I take advantage of all of these opportunities. But the most soul-satisfying for me is the gathering of my MMRWA Chapter and the guests who join us on a little lake in West Michigan for our Retreat from Harsh Reality.